More reg­u­la­tion or more ed­u­ca­tion?

Mo­torists must learn about trucks

Big Rigs - - NEWS - Kirstin Payne kirstin.payne@bi­grigs.com.au

TO REG­U­LATE fur­ther or not, that is the ques­tion – the one that seems to be on the tip of ev­ery pol­icy-maker’s tongue af­ter a hor­ror month on our roads.

Yet our truck driv­ers have a dif­fer­ent take on the sit­u­a­tion.

With 93 per cent* of heavy ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents be­ing found to be the fault of a light ve­hi­cle, those in the in­dus­try in­stead see more ed­u­ca­tion of all road users as key.

For Robyn Cooper-Radke, who has been in­volved in the road trans­port in­dus­try all of her life, the push for ed­u­ca­tion on our road­ways couldn’t be more im­por­tant.

As some­one who has felt the im­pact of a heavy ve­hi­cle fa­tal­ity first-hand, she is one of many seek­ing change.

“I re­ceived the phone call that no fam­ily ever wants to ex­pe­ri­ence when my late fa­ther-in-law was trag­i­cally killed at Tocumwal in 1997,” Robyn said.

“No fam­ily ever sends their loved one to work only to have the po­lice knock on their door or re­ceive that phone call.

“We lost an­other driver the other night – a driver mar­ried with two young chil­dren, who now have to live the rest of their lives without a fa­ther and hus­band.”

While safety ini­tia­tives have been put in place for heavy ve­hi­cles over the years, Robyn be­lieves the fo­cus must now be placed on light ve­hi­cle be­hav­iour.

“We have lost five truck driv­ers in the space of two days,” she said.

“The in­dus­try has im­ple­mented so many reg­u­la­tions and safety pro­ce­dures over the years for driv­ers but the pub­lic aware­ness of how to in­ter­act with heavy ve­hi­cles isn’t there.

“The pub­lic aware­ness needs to go back to the be­gin­ning. Truck com­pa­nies have re­ally gone as far as

they can.

“But the gen­eral pub­lic just has no idea how to drive around trucks. We have driv­ers we send out and we want them to come home.”

Robyn has, how­ever, com­mended the re­cent ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign run by NSW Po­lice which shows av­er­age driv­ers what it is like to sit in­side the cab of the truck.

“It is great but there needs to be more of it,” Robyn said.

“Whether it is state, ter­ri­tory or lo­cal gov­ern­ments – they need to go back to the ba­sics, as do the me­dia net­works.

“If just one per­son picks up th­ese skills, that could be one less ac­ci­dent on our roads.”

Ben Maguire, CEO of the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, which was one of the many in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tions that met with the NSW Min­is­ter for Trans­port on the mat­ter, said ed­u­ca­tion had been a topic of dis­cus­sion.

“The real mes­sage that we got across is we need to see ben­e­fit,” he said.

“If there is go­ing to be im­post, or more in­ter­ven­tion on fa­tigue man­age­ment or ve­hi­cle main­te­nance or any­thing to do with op­er­at­ing in this in­dus­try we need to see what the real ben­e­fits are.”

He said the group also ac­knowl­edged the fa­tal­i­ties caused by small ve­hi­cles

“More aware­ness and more driver train­ing for smaller ve­hi­cles is im­per­a­tive if you want to save lives on the road,” he said.

A point which he says re­ceived “var­i­ous lev­els of re­cep­tion”.

“We are cer­tainly push­ing for it at the mo­ment and it seems to be un­der­stood. It is ac­tu­ally not that much of a com­plex is­sue to solve – if we raise the bar for all get­ting li­censed I don’t see any­one in the community who is re­ally go­ing to have an is­sue with it,” he said.

This month also saw the launch of Op­er­a­tion Rolling Thun­der, Aus­tralia’s largest ever po­lice op­er­a­tion on heavy ve­hi­cles – a move that was pub­licly slammed by NatRoad, which has also called for fur­ther con­cen­tra­tion on light ve­hi­cles.

While the in­dus­try group said it un­der­stands why the po­lice seek to ad­dress road safety, they are con­cerned truck­ies are be­ing painted as the en­emy through neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions in the me­dia.

“The road toll is not go­ing to be re­duced in a con­text of blam­ing the truck in­dus­try in iso­la­tion for the re­gret­table deaths that oc­cur on Aus­tralia’s roads,” NatRoad CEO War­ren Clark said.

Out­side of the furore and on the front­line, NSW Po­lice Chief In­spec­tor Phil Brooks said more than one fac­tor ws in­volved in the tragedies.

“I think you can’t escape the fact that NSW car­ries the bulk of the na­tion’s road traf­fic,” In­spec­tor Brooks said.

“In terms of risk, NSW ob­vi­ously car­ries that risk of the greater amount of ve­hi­cles on the road – with the greater amount of traf­fic comes at a greater amount of risk,” he said.

“There are sig­nif­i­cant is­sues on our roads and that is com­bined with what I would term per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

In­spec­tor Brooks said the NSW Po­lice Ser­vice, in part­ner­ship with the Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vice, leads the na­tion in terms of heavy

❝ The gen­eral pub­lic just has no idea how to drive around trucks. — Robyn Cooper-Radke

ve­hi­cle com­pli­ance.

“We have sig­nif­i­cant pro­grams out there in terms of safety, how­ever when you look at th­ese re­cent heavy ve­hi­cle deaths, the lo­ca­tions be­ing in ru­ral New South Wales in pre­fect driv­ing con­di­tions, I think fa­tigue is a rea­son­able con­sid­er­a­tion for th­ese sad and tragic events,” he said.

“I think it is re­ally peo­ple who are driv­ing ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time and the ones who are teaching our younger driv­ers who re­ally need to check their own ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“With th­ese fa­tal crashes over the Christ­mas break on our roads – many of those are older driv­ers who have sadly lost their lives.”

* The 2017 the Na­tional Truck Ac­ci­dent Re­search Cen­tre (NTARC) re­port

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

ED­U­CA­TION IS A MUST: Robyn Cooper-Radke, now based in Queens­land, has spent her life in the truck­ing in­dus­try.

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

LIGHT VE­HI­CLE CRASH RATE: NTARC's 2017 Ma­jor Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Re­port.

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