POLICE will be in out in force this week, testing heavy vehicles as harvest continues across the region.
The increased testing of trucks and truck drivers is part of Operation Austrans Phase Two, which will run until Saturday 9.
Victoria Police road policing operations superintendent John Fitzpatrick said heavy vehicles continued to be over-represented in road trauma. “Comprising less than four per cent of the national road fleet, heavy vehicles are involved in around 17 per cent of road fatalities nationally,” he said.
Warracknabeal farmer and Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president Ross Johns said timing of the renewed focus on road-worthiness could not be worse.
He said he had heard of trucks being cited for defects and being put off the road last week as farmers worked around the clock to get off as much crop as they could before the rain.
“I was told there had been people booked in the Wimmera, there were also claims the alleged offences not necessarily a major safety flaw – obviously we will find out more, but if that is the case it is very disappointing,” he said.
“On one hand the state government is saying it understands the risks farmers undertake and that it wants to support them.
“On the other you have cases like this, where farmers are faced with a significant weather risk yet are forced off the road for what could be relatively minor issues.”
The bookings come a year after the Victorian heavy vehicle squad attracted the ire of the farming community for what was seen as heavy-handed interpretations of roadworthy laws, including bookings for matters such as oil on engines or ripped seats.
Mr Johns called on law enforcement issues to show common sense in regards to trucks.
“No one is justifying dangerous operating practices but when there are relatively minor faults, often caused due to the trucks operating on roads that are not of the appropriate standard, then perhaps some common sense could be applied,” he said.
Murra Warra farmer and Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said the situation had to be put in context.
“I haven’t heard what the alleged offences were, but if it is category one stuff like bald tyres or failing brakes then there is absolutely no way we condone that,” he said.
“However, if it is a repeat of what we saw last year then you would have to hope more common sense would be shown.”
Mr Johns said the concept of chain of responsibility regulations meant the state government needed to provide safe roads for trucks.