Give us a brake, say driving assessors
Department of Transport driving assessors are saying the removal of the traditional mechanical handbrake in some modern cars is putting road users are risk when they are conducting tests.
The assessors rely heavily on the mechanical handbrake when testing drivers, using it when a driver panics or puts the vehicle in a dangerous situation.
The assessors are unable to stop vehicles with a foot-operated park brake or those fitted with an electric brake that is button-operated and doesn’t perform the same function.
They will hold a special meeting on Wednesday to consider their response to the department’s occupational safety and health assessment.
CPSU/CSA branch secretary Toni Walkington said the assessors were genuinely concerned about how they can stop one of these vehicles quickly and safely in an emergency situation.
“Our members feel more comfortable when they have the ability to stop the vehicle themselves if something goes wrong,” Ms Walkington said.
The issue came to a head last month when two candidates from one family booked driving tests at a metropolitan licensing centre.
The assessors refused to do tests in the car that had an electronic park brake because of safety concerns.
Previously electronic park brakes had been tested by the assessors and the cars did not stop or slow down as required in an emergency situation.
In many of the manufacturer’s manuals it states the electronic park brake will only be engaged if the driver has their foot on the brake pedal.
Ms Walkington said this was not usually practical in a driving test.
After the candidates complained the department instructed a customer service officer from another metropolitan licensing centre to conduct the tests on two separate days.
The union believes this employee was targeted because he was on a contract and less likely to oppose the test.
The union recently conducted a survey at a metropolitan licensing centre that has eight assessors and performed more than 400 tests for a month.
Assessors used the centrally-fitted handbrake on 64 occasions.
“Clearly from these statistics our members’ concerns are justified and we are calling on the Department of Transport to follow Victoria’s example where candidates have to use a driving school car with dual controls or use a vehicle with a centrally-fitted, mechanical brake.”
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