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Revocation of certification of towing connections by Peter Wastney Engineering Limited

Updated: 3 May 2018

Background

Following the failure of a drawbeam certified by Peter Wastney Engineering Limited (PWE) in August 2017, the NZ Transport Agency launched an investigation into towing connection certifications issued by the company. The certification files uplifted, relating to the failure, contained insufficient information or detail to justify a decision to be made under the Heavy Vehicle Towing Standard (NZS 5446) by PWE.

This outcome prompted the Transport Agency to uplift a further 14 files, none of which contained sufficient information to support the decisions made by PWE. This led to a further six certifications being revoked of which two of the vehicles could not be repaired sufficiently to be recertified.

As a result, out of concern for public safety, the Transport Agency issued a safety alert on 14 February 2018 [PDF, 2.3 MB] relating to all towing connections certified by PWE. Independent reviews identified that they were not adequately designed for the loads to which they had been certified. The safety alert urgently required all operators with heavy vehicles whose drawbeams, drawbars, or towbars were certified by PWE to have them cleaned and inspected for signs of cracks or other failures. If any signs were found, the vehicles’ use as a combination vehicle needed to be discontinued immediately.

The Transport Agency required that all towing connections certified to NZS 5446/NZS 5467 by PWE, whether signs of failure are present or not, be assessed and new certification issued within a reasonable time by a heavy vehicle specialist certifier (HVSC) with the HVET category. Further information was sent directly to affected vehicle owners, and likely questions and answers [PDF, 539 KB] were also published online.

Why the Transport Agency has decided to revoke the PWE certifications of all heavy vehicle towing connections

The NZ Transport Agency does not make decisions of this magnitude lightly. We realise the implications for our customers, and their business or recreational travel needs. However, our initial concerns led us to checking further files. Along with the files, visual inspections of towbars carried out by specialist certifiers since the publication of the safety notice indicated that 61 of 62 towbars inspected were not fit for purpose and could potentially fail while in use on the road.

Further investigation of the certifications of drawbeams and drawbars has determined similar substandard components and/or documentation have been used to certify them also. For some vehicles we found immediate safety concerns, while for others there is insufficient information to validate certification.

Next steps

If you own a heavy vehicle whose towbar, drawbeam or drawbar has a current certification by Peter Wastney Engineering Limited, you will receive a letter and an interim period exemption document from the NZ Transport Agency. Where possible, we will phone customers as well.

The letter will explain that you need to get your heavy vehicle's towing connection recertified as soon as possible.

If the towing connection is not recertified before the exemption ends, or the towing connection is not removed or made inoperable (in the case of a drawbeam or towbar), the vehicle will be unable to be used on public roads after 30 November 2018, and will fail its subsequent Certificate of Fitness inspections.

Affected trailers are not able to be used until the drawbar has been recertified, other than for the exclusive purpose of obtaining certification, when they must only be towed unladen as per the exemption.

Please note that removing the towball or tow coupling only is not an acceptable method of rendering a towbar or drawbeam inoperable.

The exemption document means you can continue to operate your heavy powered vehicle on the road, with the towbar or drawbeam fitted, so long as the vehicle is not used to tow a trailer (or other type of vehicle). Affected trailers are not able to be used until the drawbar has been recertified, other than for the exclusive purpose of obtaining certification, when they must only be towed unladen. The exemption expires on 30 November 2018.

The towing connection needs to be recertified by a heavy vehicle specialist certifier with an ‘HVET’ authorisation. The list of HVET-authorised certifiers is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/HVET-certifiers [PDF, 486 KB]. Alternatively, liaise with the engineering workshop you normally use, who will have a certifier they can use.

Check your vehicle's plate number

  • A towbar is fitted to a heavy vehicle (truck, bus, campervan etc) and is used to tow a light vehicle (usually a trailer but may be another light vehicle such as a car).  A light vehicle is one with a GVM no greater than 3,500kg.
  • A drawbeam is fitted to a heavy vehicle (e.g. a truck) and is used to tow a heavy trailer.  A heavy vehicle, which includes trailers, is one with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) exceeding 3,500kg.
  • A drawbar is fitted to a heavy trailer with a GVM exceeding 3,500kg.

If you don't receive a letter, and believe that the towbar, drawbeam or drawbar or on your heavy vehicle was certified by Peter Wastney Engineering Limited, you can check for your plate number or phone 0800 699 000.

Sample letters and exemption documents, different for each type of towing connection

Questions and answers

Q&As reviewed and added to, 3 May 2018.

  • I own a heavy vehicle with a PWE certified towing connection – what do I need to do?

    You need to get your heavy vehicle's towing connection recertified as soon as possible. If the towing connection is not recertified before the exemption expires, or the towbar/drawbeam is not removed or made inoperable, the vehicle will be unable to be used on public roads after 30 November 2018, and will fail its subsequent Certificate of Fitness inspections.

    The exemption document means you can continue to operate your heavy powered vehicle on the road, with the towbar/drawbeam fitted, so long as the vehicle is not used to tow a trailer (or other type of vehicle). Affected trailers are not able to be used until the drawbar has been recertified, other than for the exclusive purpose of obtaining certification, when they must only be towed unladen as per the exemption. The exemption expires on 30 November 2018.

    If you no longer use the towbar/drawbeam, you can have it removed or made inoperable. If you choose to do this, please let the Transport Agency know by phone 0800 699 000 or by email info@nzta.govt.nz so we can ensure a note is added to the vehicle's file.

    Please note that removing the towball or tow coupling only is not an acceptable method of rendering a towbar or drawbeam inoperable.

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  • How can I make my towbar/drawbeam inoperable?

    In the case of a towbar/drawbeam that is easily unbolted, the towbar/drawbeam should be removed.  Where a towbar/drawbeam has been welded onto part of the chassis of the vehicle or is part of another significant structure such as the hoist attachment, then it may be difficult to remove it.  Examples of rendering the towbar/drawbeam inoperable include cutting the towball tongue off, or removing the towball/tow coupling and welding a plate over the mounting hole so that another towball/coupling cannot be bolted on.

    Please note that removing the towball or tow coupling only is not an acceptable method of rendering a towbar or drawbeam inoperable.

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  • What if I have already had my towing connection replaced?

    If you have had your towing connection replaced please phone the Transport Agency on 0800 699 000 in the first instance to check if the appropriate records have been updated. If the records have not been updated, please send the Transport Agency a copy of the new LT400 (Heavy Vehicle Specialist Certificate) form or a photo of the certification plate which is found on the towing connection and should be clearly visible from the back or the side.

    If you’ve had to have your towing connection replaced due to design problems or damage (other than damage caused by using the towing connection for reasons other than its intended purpose), the Transport Agency is collecting information and would appreciate your cooperation to provide us with a brief summary and any evidence (such as photos) that you are able to provide.

    While there is no legal liability to do so, in order to minimise interruption the Transport Agency will cover the cost of the recertification and, where necessary, repair or replacement of your towing connection. The Transport Agency is currently working on a process to reimburse vehicle owners for recertification and this will be communicated to all affected vehicle owners shortly.

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  • I’ve had no issues with my towing connection certified by Peter Wastney Engineering Limited. Why do I need to recertify it?

    You need to have the vehicle's towing connection recertified because the Transport Agency has revoked the PWE certification as reviews show they do not meet the Heavy Vehicle Towing Standard (NZS 5446 / NZS 5467). If the towing connection is not recertified before the exemption ends on 30 November 2018, or the towbar/drawbeam is not removed or made inoperable, the vehicle will be unable to be used on public roads, and will fail its subsequent Certificate of Fitness inspections.

    Please note that removing the towball or tow coupling only is not an acceptable method of rendering a towbar or drawbeam inoperable.

    The exemption document means you can continue to operate your heavy vehicle on the road, with the towbar/drawbeam fitted, so long as the vehicle is not used to tow a trailer (or other type of vehicle). The exemption expires on 30 November 2018.

    The towing connection needs to be recertified by a heavy vehicle specialist certifier with an ‘HVET’ authorisation. The list of HVET-authorised certifiers is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/HVET-certifiers [PDF, 486 KB]. Alternatively, liaise with the engineering workshop you normally use, who will have a certifier they can use.

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  • The certification on my vehicle's towing connection has been revoked. How soon do I need to have it recertified?

    We recommend you have the vehicle's towing connection recertified as soon as possible. If the towing connection is not recertified before the exemption ends on 30 November 2018, or the towbar/drawbeam is not removed or made inoperable, the vehicle will be unable to be used on public roads, and will fail its subsequent Certificate of Fitness inspections.

    Please note that removing the towball or tow coupling only is not an acceptable method of rendering a towbar or drawbeam inoperable.

    The exemption document means you can continue to operate your heavy powered vehicle on the road, with the towbar/drawbeam fitted, so long as the vehicle is not used to tow a trailer (or other type of vehicle). The exemption expires on 30 November 2018.

    The towing connection needs to be recertified by a heavy vehicle specialist certifier with an ‘HVET’ authorisation. The list of HVET-authorised certifiers is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/HVET-certifiers [PDF, 486 KB]. Alternatively, liaise with the engineering workshop you normally use, who will have a certifier they can use.

    The Transport Agency is arranging for extra heavy vehicle specialist certifiers with an ‘HVET’ authorisation to be in Marlborough, Tasman and the West Coast where the majority of affected vehicles are located and finding a certifier may be more challenging.

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  • The certification on the drawbeam/towbar/drawbar on my truck/trailer still has some years left before it expires. Who is going to pay for a new one?

    The Transport Agency recognises that there will be cost in replacing/recertifying the drawbeam/towbar/drawbar but have determined that minimising the risk to safety outweighs the cost.

    While there is no legal liability to do so, in order to minimise interruption the Transport Agency will cover the cost of the recertification and, where necessary, repair or replacement of your towing connection. The Transport Agency is currently working on a process to reimburse vehicle owners for recertification and this will be communicated to all affected vehicle owners shortly.

    If you already have your vehicle booked in for recertification please proceed as planned as safety is the top priority. If you have any immediate concerns please email info@nzta.govt.nz with Peter Wastney Engineering Limited and your vehicle's registration plate number in the subject line.

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  • My vehicle's CoF is about to expire. Will it pass a CoF inspection if I have a towing connection certified by Peter Wastney Engineering Limited on my vehicle?

    Your vehicle won't fail its Certificate of Fitness due to the revoked towbar/drawbeam certification if the towing coupling has been recertified, or the towbar/drawbeam has been removed or made inoperable, or you present the vehicle before 30 November 2018 with your exemption document to the CoF provider.

    You will be unable to present your trailer for a Certificate of Fitness inspection unless the drawbar has been recertified as the only reason the trailer is allowed on public roads is to get the drawbar recertified, repaired or replaced, not to go for a Certificate of Fitness inspection. Affected trailers are not able to be used until the drawbar has been recertified, other than for the exclusive purpose of obtaining certification, when they must only be towed unladen as per the exemption.

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  • What is the difference between a drawbeam, a towbar and a drawbar?

    A towbar is fitted to a heavy vehicle (truck, bus, campervan etc) and is used to tow a light vehicle (usually a trailer but may be another light vehicle such as a car).  A light vehicle is one with a GVM no greater than 3,500kg.

    A drawbeam is fitted to a heavy vehicle (e.g. a truck) and is used to tow a heavy trailer.  A heavy vehicle, which includes trailers, is one with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) exceeding 3,500kg.

    A drawbar is fitted to a heavy trailer with a GVM exceeding 3,500kg.

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