LTSA wants privacy laws revised

The Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) is pushing for a revision of privacy laws and regulations to let it pull more data from organisations ranging from the police to transport operators into its data warehouse.

The Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) is pushing for a revision of privacy laws and regulations to let it pull more data from organisations ranging from the police to transport operators into its data warehouse.

LTSA speaks highly of the ability of its data warehouse and analysis and presentation tools to reduce undesirable features of road usage, from accidents to inconveniently frequent inspection of good transport operators.

But the authority is “a virtual organisation”, says information chief Tony West. “We manage safety by leveraging what others do.” This means ideally drawing data from others; insurance companies, for example, possess fuller statistics of accidents than the LTSA does. Truck drivers’ logbooks are in the hands of the trucking companies, and carry not only records of distances driven but also records of any safety infringements. Other infringement data is in the hands of the police.

Having as much as possible to hand would greatly assist LTSA to do its various jobs, West says. The bottom line is to maximise the safety of New Zealand’s roads, whether by identifying accident black-spots through accumulated accident data or fingering trucking firms and even entire industries which have an unusually high or unusually low record of accidents and safety violations. Even an anomalous pattern in purchasing of road user licences could indicate potential problems, he says.

Getting at that data runs against “a few legal and procedural impediments”, West acknowledges, and the LTSA is working on persuading government to revise necessary statutes and regulations.

The wheels of government, however, grind slowly. “I don’t see it happening within this term of government,” West says. “In the interim, we’re doing what we can within the legislation we have.”

The LTSA data warehouse runs on an HP server under NT 4.0 with data stored in Oracle 8 — extracting out to a Microsoft OLAP Services cube on an NT box. Brio Insight is used to access Microsoft OLAP Services.

LTSA has a number of Brio Quickview users — primarily economic compliance officers located all over New Zealand. These officers travel around their specific territory checking trucks’ compliance to safety standards, rules and regulations.

Brio Explorer is also used, primarily by data analysts providing overall performance measurement reporting to senior management. There are plans for senior management to have hands-on access — but at present Brio’s Broadcast Server is providing the means for automatic distribution of relevant reports to senior management via email.

The basic technical side of the warehouse implementation — begun in 1998 — went well, West says. New data was immediately funnelled to the warehouse. The chief problem proved to be extracting old data from existing databases, and ensuring it was clean and consistent before putting it in the warehouse. This task is only now coming to an end.

Availability of analytical data enables the authority not only to see how well it is performing in its various roles, but “helps us decide what are the right things to do”, says West — what are the most effective ways to deploy its limited resources. A big part of this is targeting known trouble-spots or firms and industries with a poor record.

The authority is piloting the concept of operator safety ratings for a small group of logging-truck drivers, based on accident and safety violation records. An operator with a poor safety rating will be inspected more often and vice-versa. This means more efficient use of LTSA and police resources, but also pleases the good operators, West says.

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