Investigation slams police handling of heavy vehicle towing rules

In News2 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 18, 2021

Police have failed to properly monitor whether a consortium of heavy vehicle towing contractors operating on their behalf for vehicle recovery on Auckland Motorways has been compliant with the law.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority conducted an investigation following a complaint by another heavy vehicle towing company about the circumstances under which the contract was awarded in 2013.

Concerns were raised that since that time, the individual companies making up the consortium awarded the contract have regularly been using tow vehicles that did not comply with the towing regulations.

The Authority found that the 2013 contract was conditional upon Police inspection of the consortium’s vehicles to ensure that they were compliant and fit for purpose. However, this did not occur, and despite renewals of the contract Police had never undertaken any systematic inspections of operational vehicles.

According to the Authority, Police have had no knowledge whether the consortium complied with the requirements of the contract.

The Authority found that Police should not have entered into, or subsequently renewed the contract, as it had real safety and congestion-management implications for road users.

The Authority’s own investigation, and subsequent audits this year by Waka Kotahi and Police, confirmed that the consortium has not had sufficient vehicles with the necessary towing capacity, and therefore only been able to fulfil the terms of the contract by using unsafe and non-compliant vehicles. Although Police were aware of these non -compliance issues, they did not take appropriate action to address them.

“Quite apart from contractual matters, the need to ensure the safety of road users makes it incumbent on Police to ensure any contractor is a compliant operator under the contract”, said Authority chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority also criticised the way Police responded to complaints about the consortium’s operation.

It found that the Police response to these complaints was inadequate, and that the only investigation into their complaints undertaken was by an officer who was involved in the matters complained about and therefore lacked impartiality.