The NZ Transport Agency has an extensive review of compliance files underway and is toughening up its enforcement regime.
An increase in the number of suspensions and other legal action is expected to follow as a result of review findings to date.
In late September the NZ Transport Agency Board engaged law firm Meredith Connell (MC) to review 850 open compliance files. Meredith Connell is now leading the regulatory function within the Transport Agency.
The Transport Agency regulates all vehicles on the roads and licenses people working in the transport sector. In response to the file review and issues identified through the investigation of recent heavy vehicle certifier suspensions, NZ Transport Agency Chief Executive Fergus Gammie says it is clear that major improvements are needed.
“For many years, the NZTA has operated a high trust, devolved regulatory regime, working with a network of qualified professionals to carry out services and focusing on ongoing education to address issues.
“It is clear that our approach has not been sufficiently robust to categorically ensure the highest levels of regulatory compliance. The Transport Agency has been too reliant on self-regulation and has not devoted enough attention or resource to ensuring compliance. We want to be up front with the public. We know we have to do better, and we accept our responsibility to fix it.”
While this review is ongoing, it has already identified a range of non-compliance across the regulatory areas overseen by the Transport Agency.
Of the 850 open compliance files, 152 have been prioritised around risk to safety. The review of these files, further investigations and actions are expected to be complete by early November. Work will continue on the remaining files.
“We have taken an exceptionally firm and prudent approach, deliberately casting a wide net to review files from all of the regulatory areas for which NZTA is responsible, encompassing issues from the very minor to the very serious. I assure the public this review is thorough and far reaching.
“The public can expect full accountability and an increased number of enforcement actions taken to ensure compliance. The Transport Agency has now instigated a risk-based approach to addressing any non-compliance where public safety could be at risk, giving priority to the most urgent cases. Where suspension is necessary to ensure public safety, the Transport Agency will take action.
“Increased enforcement actions will be immediately visible as final decisions are made on each file regarding the appropriate corrective action required. The Transport Agency team is committed to swiftly improving how regulatory compliance is enforced,” Mr Gammie said.
The Transport Agency is in the process of hiring additional compliance inspectors to cover heavy vehicle certifiers and Warrant of Fitness (WoF) and Certificate of Fitness (CoF) certifications. Certifiers and licence holders will be required to quickly address issues identified, or face action. On top of this, the NZTA is proposing to establish a newly focused regulatory division, with increased resourcing and capability.
The Transport Agency has recently appointed two additional heavy vehicle engineers and two additional auditors, with a third being recruited. Recruitment is also underway for 17 additional Warrant of Fitness and Certificate of Fitness inspectors.
“We are calling on both our regulatory partners and those sectors which we regulate – such as the heavy vehicle industry and transport operators – to continue to work alongside NZTA and to accept their own roles in ensuring regulatory compliance,” Mr Gammie said.
To ensure the review of compliance is as thorough as possible, the NZ Transport Agency is establishing an anonymous and independently monitored ‘whistle blower’ phone line. If industry workers or members of the public have any information or concerns about non-compliance they will be able to call an 0800 number. Details of this will be provided within the next few days.
NZTA will provide further updates as the review continues.