Updated: 10 August 2018
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 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.
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.
If you own a heavy vehicle whose towbar, drawbeam or drawbar has a current certification by Peter Wastney Engineering Limited, you will have received a letter and an interim period exemption document from the NZ Transport Agency. Where possible, we phoned customers as well.
The letter explained that owners needed to get their 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 owners can continue to operate their 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, 93 KB]. Alternatively, liaise with the engineering workshop you normally use, who will have a certifier they can use.
If you didn't receive a letter, and believe that the towbar, drawbeam or drawbar on your heavy vehicle was certified by Peter Wastney Engineering Limited, you can check for your plate number or phone 0800 699 000.
Towbars: full sample of the towbar letter and exemption document, April 2018 [PDF, 860 KB]
Drawbeams: full sample of the drawbeam letter and exemption document, May 2018 [PDF, 1.1 MB]
Drawbars: full sample of the drawbar letter and exemption document, May 2018 [PDF, 1009 KB]
The NZ Transport Agency is committed to supporting vehicle owners whose vehicles have towing connections certified by PWE. Although the Transport Agency isn’t legally liable to do so, we’ve agreed to cover the cost of inspection, recertification and any necessary repairs or replacements, in order to lessen the impact of the revocations we’ve called for.
The options in the financial support letter below tell you what you need to do, depending on your vehicle’s situation, so that we can cover the costs for owners. Please note: this process must be completed by 30 November 2018.
As part of the NZ Transport Agency's commitment to safety on our network, we have sent reminder letters to all owners where our records show that their vehicle(s) have not yet had their affected towing connections recertified or rendered inoperable. If you received this letter, please take the appropriate action as indicated in the letter.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the owners who have already prioritised the safety of themselves, their drivers, and all other road users by promptly having their towing connection(s) recertified.