Hundreds of Northland motorists could be driving around in potentially unsafe vehicles after failing to get their vehicle rechecked following a Dargaville company being suspended from issuing Warrants of Fitness.
Dargaville Diesel Specialists (DDS) was suspended from issuing WoFs in August after a police investigation into a fatal crash in January found the front passenger's seatbelt was frayed and failed in the crash.
Passenger William Ball died 26 days later. The driver has pleaded guilty to driving-related charges and is yet to be sentenced.
Close to two-thirds of vehicles retested after being issued a Warrant of Fitness by DDS failed their first recheck. The NZ Transport Agency acknowledged its regulatory regime had failed Ball, alongside DDS.
NZTA issued retesting vouchers to almost 2000 vehicle owners who had WoFs issued by DDS, but so far almost half of them have not had a recheck, forcing NZTA to urge those motorists to get their vehicles retested. NZTA has extended the expiry date of the vouchers to the end of March to allow this to happen.
Meredith Connell managing partner Steve Haszard, who is leading regulatory compliance at the Transport Agency, is urging people to get their vehicles rechecked without delay.
"We can't legally compel vehicle owners to get their vehicles rechecked, but it's important that the owners of these vehicles understand that they may not have been properly inspected during the previous WoF check carried out by these suspended providers. We're reminding people again that the recheck costs will be met by the Transport Agency,'' he said.
"All vehicle owners have a responsibility to ensure that their vehicle is up to WoF standard every day it is on the road. We want to make sure the owners of these vehicles know that it's important to get these rechecks done to keep their family members, friends and passengers safe – it's that simple. Do the right thing, get your vehicle rechecked."
The reminder follows the immediate suspension of a number of vehicle inspectors and inspecting organisations. NZTA has been contacting the vehicle owners directly by writing to them and following-up with phone calls.
"We're not aware of specific concerns relating to individual vehicles, however due to the poor quality of many of these inspections there is a possibility that some vehicles may have been incorrectly passed," Haszard says.
DDS owner Rodney Wilson disputed that he had a shoddy inspection system.
He said there was no way he would do anything that impacted on people's safety.
"I've had 50 years in the mechanics trade and they are telling me that I don't know anything about cars and safety. It's bull****," Wilson said.
Altogether 1956 vehicles were affected at DDS and so far 1003 have been retested. The retesting is needed to ensure there are no safety issues with the vehicles.
NZTA was aware DDS had serious regulatory compliance issues on an intermittent basis since 2011. There were several chances to undertake enforcement action, the most serious infraction was just weeks before the crash when NZTA observed DDS issuing warrants without inspecting vehicles properly.