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Notice given 15 August 2001

3839  Senator Harris: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services—With reference to documents relating to heavy truck specifications tabled pursuant to orders of the Senate:

(1) In the middle of 1999 was a data disc deliberately corrupted by Mr Scott McFarlane of Roaduser International before being sent to the owner of F1, so that it would be unusable and thus prevent others from analysing the data, and that an uncorrupted disc was not sent until 2 to 3 months later.

(2) Were the air fare and related accommodation costs for the Melbourne to Brisbane return trip on 13 May 1999 that were listed in the external supplier expense document (K99-917, 024-026) relating to the Roaduser Report used solely for that purpose and not used to subsidise the costs of Roaduser personnel attending other functions at the Brisbane Truck Show, unrelated to the report.

(3) Was the second testing of F4, a Mack CH Fleetliner prime mover, undertaken at the request of the manufacturer; if so, was the expense of this additional test costed to the report or to the manufacturer.

(4) (a) Did the manufacturer of the Australian-designed and tested Hendrickson WD2 460 suspension that was fitted to the worst performing vehicle, F6, withdraw that suspension from the market early in 2001 after claiming there was nothing wrong with it; and (b) is it a fact that the manufacturer has no substitute available until a new suspension is introduced in 2002; if so: (i) why was the suspension withdrawn, and (ii) if it was due to its poor performance, why has there not been a recall or other action taken in relation to other vehicles similar in style to F6 fitted with that suspension.

(5) (a) Was Roaduser International’s tender for this investigation $79 400, compared with the losing bidder’s quote of about $120 000; and (b) was the final payment to Roaduser International close to $580 000.

(6) With reference to documents T1112- 121-138 and K99-804—126-132, did Roaduser International tender to undertake publicity and problem definition for $8 000, inspect-and-drive appraisals of 6 vehicles for $14 850 ($2 470 each), instrumented testing of 4 vehicles for $33 050 ($8 250 each), computer simulation and analysis relating to 4 instrumented tests for $21 000, assessment of vehicles against industry standards for $5 000, risk amelioration and problem scoping for $3 000 and a report of the investigation for $5 000.

(7) Did Roaduser charge about $80 000 to appraise 13 vehicles ($6 200 each, or 2.5 times the quoted cost per vehicle) even though it did not undertake analysis of each vehicle using Roaduser’s in-house, computer-based performance assessment and did not undertake a lane-change manoeuvre.

(8) Did Roaduser charge about $340 000 for 8 instrumented tests and drives ($42 500 each, or 5 times the quoted cost per vehicle) even though the number of channels of data quoted to be collected was a minimum of 28 compared with only 3 more collected, and evaluation of the vehicle negotiating a standard bump and a steady turn and under severe braking were not carried out.

(9) In relation to the investigation: (a) was Roaduser allowed to charge, for graduate engineers with about 2-years experience on $40 000 per year (or $30 per chargeable hour), a rate around $150 per hour, or more than twice the rate generally charged by consultants for such engineers; (b) were the charge-out rates for the Chief Engineer and Manager Accident Mitigation $250 per hour, and the rate for Dr Peter Sweatman $350 per hour; and (c) have there been any other consultants in the road transport field for which the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has paid similar charge-out rates; if not, can the Minister advise why these rates were paid for this investigation.

(10) Can the Minister confirm that: (a) while the Federal Office of Road Safety tender suggested the use of subcontracted, experienced and qualified organisations to conduct the vibration related tests of the investigation, Roaduser, which was not an experienced or qualified organisation in this field, undertook this work itself; (b) Roaduser quoted on, and undertook measuring of, driver’s seat vibration in the vertical and fore-aft directions only, even though the relevant international standard (ISO 2631-1) required measurements in the side-to-side direction as well, and rates this vibration as being more important than the vertical direction; (c) in order to undertake this work, the Chief Engineer purchased a text on vibration around August 1999; (d) much of the analysis of ‘vibration’ and other data was undertaken by a PhD student with no specific skills in either heavy vehicles or vibration; and (e) Roaduser charged the same hourly rate for this work even though it was not expert in the field.

(11) Given the above, what action is being taken to recover excess monies paid to Roaduser under this contract.