Should disability parking offenders face demerit points?

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MAKE THE POINT: Figures from the Office of State Revenue show about 16,000 fines are issued for disabled zone parking breaches each year. About 800,000 people around Australia have a disability parking permit.

In 2012, the NRMA argued for the introduction of demerit point penalties for people who illegally park in spaces reserved for disabled permit holders.

That’s why we were pleased to read in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph that NSW Roads Minister ­Duncan Gay has asked his ­department to look at adding the offence to the state’s ­demerit points list.

Although all types of misuse should be addressed, we believe it is important to tackle the highest level of misuse – knowingly using someone else’s permit without the presence of the permit holder. While we understand that detecting this offence is a difficult process, NRMA continues to believe that the current penalty for repeat offenders does not act as a sufficient deterrent.

NRMA believes that for non-permit holders, harsher penalties should apply for second or subsequent offences such as a substantial increase of the monetary fine and loss of demerit points. An education campaign promoting the heavy penalties, in conjunction with enforcement activities is also needed to ensure that people comply.

The availability of disability parking spaces should also be addressed. As the population ages, the demand for these disabled parking spaces will grow. The NSW Government must make sure that there are parking spaces to meet this demand.

So, the NRMA will be in touch with the Government to see how we can implement this policy as quickly as possible.

Do you agree that those who rort the disability parking scheme should face demerit points? 

VW take the bump out of bumper cars

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We all know the thrill of dodgem cars. However, in a new ad screened in Norway, Volkswagen has ingeniously put a stop to the action by kitting out some cars with its City Emergency Braking technology. 

“We installed City Emergency Brake technology on a bumper car at Tusenfryd, Norway´s biggest amusement park. The bumper was equipped with ultrasonic sensors and stopped every time it was to close to another car. The people’s reactions were filmed and became a TV commercial,” said a Volkswagen Norway spokesman.

Many manufacturers now offer variations of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems which can prevent prangs from occurring by automatically applying the brakes to avoid collision.

The system is designed to help a driver avoid or reduce the severity of a low-speed crash. At vehicle speeds between 5km/h and 30km/h, City Emergency Braking monitors an area 10m ahead of the car for vehicles, which might present a threat of collision. It can also detect pedestrians and cyclists.

Other manufacturers’ AEB systems can’t do this but operate at higher speeds, including Subaru’s Eyesite system, which can avoid a collision with a vehicle ahead up to 80 km/h.

What do you think? Would you be more interested in AEB systems after watching the ad?

NRMA in the 90s: from the cassette to the internet!

NRMA is celebrating 90 Years of Roadside Assistance in October. Here’s the eighth in a series of blogs about our story.

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RELIABLE: During a challenging dawn of the decade for Australia, the NRMA quietly went about its business to better serve its Members.

As the 21st century loomed, the 90s was a decade of introspection across all areas of Australian social and cultural life, as economic recession, indigenous issues and the prospect of republicanism spurred national debate. By the close of the decade, advances in communication and the advent of the internet meant that Australians had become global citizens ready for the dawn of a century of ‘interconnectivity’.

During the challenges for Australia at the dawn of the decade, the NRMA quietly went about its business to better serve its Members. In 1991, the introduction of a custom net 13 phone network made it possible to call the NRMA help line from anywhere in Australia. This improved Roadside Assistance coverage as it enabled Members to get help from local road service organisations across the country.

The new number meant shorter waiting times for Members, as the network was capable of handling 3.5 million calls per year. Among the improvements, the number of callers waiting more than an hour for a patrol to be dispatched was halved. Naturally, as the service improved, the Membership base grew and in 1991 a new record 9,669 calls were handled in one day, which was also the wettest 24 hours recorded in 100 years!

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BATTERY BLUES: failed batteries were still a common form of breakdown for members in the 90s

The return of VH2AM 

Knowledge sharing and networking across the patrol fleet remained as crucial as ever back but improvements in communication made it faster and easier. From the early years, internal magazines like Do you Know?In Roads and The Good Oil shared news of technical tips, upgrades and company information throughout the organisation.

However, in 1994, the staff circular was revolutionised through the cassette recording of VH2AM, ‘The voice of NRMA road service’. The name echoed the original call sign from when the association was granted its first radio channel in 1949. This new media meant patrols could listen whilst driving from job to job, just as they would the radio.

Patrols were also encouraged to continue to share handy tips, stories and innovative ideas by calling into the recording broadcast. VH2AM is still used today as internal communication, albeit with a few more technological advances!

SCHOOLS OUT: Trade and technical training sessions were arranged to allow patrols to share tips and pass on knowledge.

MULL(ET)ING IT OVER: Trade and technical training sessions were arranged to allow patrols to share tips and pass on knowledge.

The rise of mobile phones

The 90′s also saw a boom in communication technology. The internet began to deliver the world to Australia’s fingertips while mobile phones provided the gateway to portable communication. Although the technology was welcomed, the increased usage of mobile phones created a new challenge for NRMA’s busy call centres.

Previously, Members used public phones or land lines, which provided fixed locations to dial road service. With mobile phones, Members could call from any location without knowing exactly where it was! Thankfully, upgrades in mobile phone technology soon rectified this problem as internet and GPS were enabled within the devices.

Van display upgrades 

As technology advanced, changes were also made to the patrol van display terminals. In 1995,  a combination of data plus two-way radio capabilities made way for full data, allowing allowing more information to be displayed on the screen.

ThIMG_2904e terminals were upgraded again towards the end of the decade with larger monitors that were easier to read. The new system also linked to a technical knowledge database, allowing patrolmen to look up vehicle complaints in the database and be shown possible solutions. Patrol motorcycles were also upgraded during the late 1990s. From the BMWs to Honda ST110s, these new motorcycles had towing capabilities for dedicated motorcycle trailers.

Patrol stories- Walter Fazakerley

“About 8pm on a Thursday night I received a phone call from the NRMA control room to ask if I could assist and elderly lady who could not find her way home in the dark. Of course I could go to help an old lady.

We arrived at the restaurant nominated to find the elderly lady propped up by her crutches beside her car.

It was quite obvious that she couldn’t have driven the car to where it was, let alone home again. I didn’t mention this fact even though I was curious. So my wife drove the van while I drove the lady’s car to her home.

By this time my curiosity had gotten the better of me. I just had to ask her how she managed to get to the restaurant if she could not drive home.

“Oh, my boyfriend asked me out to dinner and drove us to the restaurant in my car. We had an argument in the restaurant and I told him to get lost. With this he got up and just left, the bill and me too!”

Do you have any memories of NRMA from the 90′s? Did mobile phones change anything for you? 

You can also commemorate this occasion with an NRMA 90 Years t-shirt. All proceeds go directly to the Leukemia Foundation.

NRMA in the 80s: Computers, new looks, and motorcycle patrols

NRMA is celebrating 90 Years of Roadside Assistance in October. Here’s the seventh in a series of blogs about our story.

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NO TIME FOR GAMES: Patrol vans were fitted with state of the art computing which gave  an accurate visual record of each job.

The move to the Villawood headquarters sparked fast upgrades in the dispatch department. At the dawn of the 80s, computers began to have a huge impact in the running and dynamic of road service.

As the decade broke, development and trialling began on the innovative Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. The change from the long standing conveyor belt system saw many positives but relying heavily on unfamiliar computer system had some dispatchers worried.

There was one instance where the CAD glitched and the dedicated call centre and dispatch teams ensured the continuation of prompt road service by reverting back to the manual process of recording breakdown information on job cards. The information would then be run between call centre and dispatch team to radio each job to the next available patrol until the problem was rectified.

The new computer-aided despatch and communication system at road service headquarters officially came into use after satisfying a 20-day testing period in September 1985. The system was the most up to date amongst the world’s motoring organisations and the first in Australia. The system featured high speed data transmission through a microwave communication network, messages were sent out over UHF.

Digital data terminals were installed in the fleet that recorded the upcoming job in text format. Dispatchers would send the job to a patrol displaying destination, map reference and member details these would remain on screen until the job was completed. This text based transmission ensured jobs were clear and streamlined the communication process.

Radio communications were also improved by the conversion to the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band with all 324 patrol vans transmitting in UHF. Dispatchers would now rely on their computer terminals to call up the whereabouts of the patrolmen to determine the most appropriate patrol for the job.

The road service job information would be read over the radio and the patrol only had to press a button to acknowledge. Upon completion of the job the patrol pressed another button and he would become available on the dispatch terminal.

Special equipment was also installed to make it easier for the hearing impaired to call for road service. A portable telecommunications device enabled hearing-impaired Members to send a message on a telephone line; the message was received and replied to in printed form.

The boys in blue 

The 1980s also saw the introduction of the iconic blue uniform. The brown serge coats, pants and shorts were replaced by the blue issue, which was based around patrol comfort and workability. Included in the issue were the standard blue shorts and trousers and shirts as well as an aviator style bomber jacket. Towards the end of the decade the uniform also incorporated reflective strips for high visibility on the road.

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EXCUSE ME OFFICER: Motorcycle patrols were often mistaken for policemen whilst travelling through traffic prone areas of the CBD.

The other boys in blue

DON'T BLOW IT: Advocacy was still a big part of NRMA's cause with this anti drink driving campaign.

DON’T BLOW IT: Road safety was still a big part of NRMA’s cause. Anti drink driving was the concern for this campaign.

In 1988 NRMA reintroduced the motorcycle patrolmen. The ‘Jambusters’ as they were called were ideal for the busy, traffic prone Central Business District. Manoeuvring through the traffic jams, the motorcycles featured a basic range of tools and parts to cover minor breakdowns. With an emphasis on safety, the riders were specially selected and were issued with a yellow safety vest and motorcycle trousers with reflective strips ensuring night time visibility.

Initially the Jambusters were issued with the Kawasaki GT550 and BMW R65 and were then upgraded to the BMW K100 which was also used by motorcycle police. With the only difference being the amber lights, the blue uniformed NRMA patrols were mistaken for policeman.

Change of logo

In 1989 the iconic NRMA logo was changed. The long circular version which had been the emblem for 39 years was changed to the superimposed emblem becoming the new identification for NRMA. This was replicated on all cars and uniforms.

Patrol stories-Walter Fazakerley

“Back in the early 80s, Walter was called to the scene of a couple who needed roadside assistance. When he arrived he could only see the wife and wondered where her husband was. She led him to the back of the car and realised that her husband was in the boot and had been trying to check the seal inside for leaks. In doing so he managed to fall into the boot and lock himself in there along   with the only set of car keys in his pocket!”

Do you have any memories of the NRMA from the 80s? Did you ever see motorcyle patrols out on the road?

You can also commemorate this occasion with an NRMA 90 Years t-shirt. All proceeds go directly to the Leukemia Foundation.

NRMA in the 70s – 1 million Members, Escorts and pollution!

NRMA is celebrating 90 Years of Roadside Assistance in October. Here’s the sixth in a series of blogs about our story. 

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OVER AND OUT: Another radio channel was added to keep up with the increased calls for Roadside Assistance.

In 1972, NRMA reached its milestone one millionth Member. It had taken 38 years to reach half a million and then only 10 years to add the second!

This huge number was felt heavily by the call centre, dispatch and patrol teams. Increased calls demanded another radio channel be added, bringing the total to five. The new channel’s base station was at Westmead, improving the network’s overall coverage and performance.

On the 1 September 1974, NRMA HQ moved to a new state of the art building at Villawood. This custom building centralised all the teams; with the road service dispatch, call centre, administration and workshop staff in the same premises. The modern workshop located at the premises was required to build vans while also servicing the 271 patrol fleet and other NRMA vehicles. The workshop, providing a major support network for the company, took up an entire warehouse for its operations run by a total of 32 staff.

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Call Centre and dispatch technologies were upgraded, ensuring efficient service for Members. A new call queuing system was used, standardising call taking. Calls were answered in turn with the aim to reduce caller wait time.

Ladies and gents

The call taking staff were always women, who would take down the Member details and breakdown information on a job card. This card was then sent on a large conveyor belt to be stamped with the correct division and then onto the dispatcher. The dispatchers were always men, plotting the patrols whereabouts on a map; they would allocate the job to the most appropriate patrol and radio the job to them. Sitting on either side of the office, there was no interaction between the two positions.

COOL RIDE: Apart from being more visible on the road, the white of the new vans helped to decrease the temperature.

1974 also saw a new vehicle trialed within the fleet, the Ford Escort. Following on from the larger Holden panel vans the Ford was smaller and lighter which made it more appropriate for the busy metro service jobs. The design comprised of a white roof, reducing the amount of blue on the vehicles which came about due an increase need for visibility, safety and comfort for patrols.

An A-frame was developed in 1975 to enable service vans to tow and immobilise vehicles in certain conditions. The frame was attached to a towing ball on the van and was designed for flat towing of cars over short distances or from parking stations and hazardous situations.

Vehicle Emissions 

From the 1960s to the 1970s there became an increased awareness of the way vehicles were effecting pollution in the air. Taking this on board the NRMA began an anti-pollution experiment, hoping to increase their environmental consciousness. A supervisor’s van was converted to run on LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) which involved fitting two gas tanks, a convertor and a different type of carburettor to mix the gas and petrol vapour. Road service patrols were also involved in the experiment whereby they would measure their emissions weekly for comparison. The aim of this trial was to reduce the carbon monoxide emissions and the results showed a positive 90 per cent decrease. There was also a small decrease in other hydrocarbon emissions.

Patrol Stories – Brian Wilson 

“Called for service, stinking hot day at Wakehurst Parkway at Oxford Falls. Burnt out clutch and when he got there old lady had fainted, was not very well.’

In days of 2 way radio, called for tow truck. lady and man called for rescue. The man wanted to thank the patrol and offered him to do a bit of painting. The patrol said no.  Several months later, saw him being interviewed on TV and then realised who it is. The man turned out to be Lloyd Rees the famous Australian Painter.”

 

Do you have any memories of NRMA from the 70s? Were you a Member then?