The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and WorkCover NSW need to improve their regulation of dangerous goods transportion, according to the NSW Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat.
Dangerous goods, which include substances such as explosives, flammable liquids and gases and oxidising agents, make up 10 to 15 per cent of domestic freight and have potential to harm people, property and the environment.
"The good news is that the number of crashes of heavy trucks carrying some of the more common types of dangerous goods has been gradually decreasing, in line with general improvements in heavy trucks safety," said Achterstraat.
However, government inspection programs were limited, with an audit finding that the Office of Environment and Heritage carried out very few checks in the four years up to 2010, with no inspections made in the metropolitan area.
This is despite Port Botany handling around 50,000 containers of dangerous goods per year. Statewide, only 303 inspections were made in 2009/10 and only 20 in 2008/09.
"In 2010, when compliance checks included the metropolitan area, 44 per cent of road vehicles inspected had breached some of the regulations," said Achterstraat.
Agencies also have limited information on operators and movements of dangerous goods on our roads and rail lines.
"While efforts are underway to improve information, it is difficult to get a clear picture of where the risks to human life and the environment are greatest," said Achterstraat.
Dangerous goods regulations require all accidents involving the transport of dangerous goods be reported to the Office of Environment and Heritage.
"The NSW Centre for Road Safety reported nearly 60 crashes involving transport of dangerous goods in 2009-10. However, the Office of Environment and Heritage received reports of only 11 incidents in the same period. Information about dangerous goods incidents needs to improve," said Achterstraat.