NZTA revokes certification for 802 heavy vehicle tow bars

Safety concerns have led NZTA to take the drastic move of revoking certification

Revocation notices are being sent out to owners of 802 heavy vehicles fitted with tow bars certified by Peter Wastney Engineering Ltd, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) announced on 23 April.

The transport agency has taken the action to address the concerns identified through visual inspections of vehicles carried out by specialist certifiers.

Of the 62 tow bars inspected, 61 were not fit for purpose, NZTA operational standards manager Craig Basher said.

On 14 February, NZTA issued a heavy vehicle safety alert in response to an investigation carried out by the agency following an on-road draw beam failure in August 2017, which led to a heavy trailer disconnecting from a truck and struck an embankment on SH6 near Nelson. An independent engineering review found that some towing connections were not accurately designed for the loads certified by Peter Wastney Engineering.

The safety alert required owners and operators of vehicles with affected tow bars, draw beams, or drawbars to have them cleaned and inspected for signs of cracks or other failures. Any vehicles found with cracks or failures were asked to discontinue.

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 "Given these findings, we are taking immediate action to revoke the certifications for all tow bars certified by Peter Wastney Engineering Ltd in order to address the serious safety risks involved. These tow bars will need to be removed, replaced, or inspected and re-certified by an approved independent heavy vehicle specialist engineer. The vehicles may continue to operate on the road in the interim, provided the tow bars are not used," Craig says.

He adds that NZTA is aware of the significant impact on vehicle owners but given the evidence, the transport agency believes it’s imperative to take this action.

NZTA’s move to revoke the certifications has raised serious concerns, with some expressing disappointment at the agency’s regulatory processes.

"It is extremely disappointing that vehicles are now being ordered off the road," Road Transport Forum chief Ken Shirley says. "This has the potential to have a major impact on the freight task, particularly in the upper part of the South Island.

"What is so concerning is that NZTA’s accreditation, auditing, and certification processes have been found to be so badly lacking. The question must be asked: how did so many vehicles get certified over such a long period of time without NZTA having any oversight?

"This is the second time within two years that NZTA has been found to have failed in their auditing responsibilities. I would have thought that after the weaknesses exposed in the driver licensing system that NZTA would have sorted out its regulatory issues, but that is clearly not the case."

A majority of the vehicles receiving the notice are located in the Nelson, Marlborough, Tasman, and West Coast areas.

At the time of writing, visual inspections of 23 affected heavy vehicle draw beams and drawbars had also raised concerns for NZTA. A review of certification documents and engineering assessments for the draw beams and drawbars fitted to another 799 trucks and trailers was under way, with a decision expected to be made later in the week.

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