Now he’s seen it all

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Feature -

SHANE PRE­STON HASN’T BEEN DRIV­ING FULL­TIME FOR THAT long. Two or three years tops...al­though in his pre­vi­ous life as an agri­cul­tural con­trac­tor the 62-year-old was of­ten be­hind the wheel.

Short though it has been, his time be­hind the wheel ev­ery day has quickly opened his eyes to the range of stupid things peo­ple do on the road – and he was be­gin­ning to think he’d seen most of it (maybe even seen it all).

But the Toll van that he saw in his mir­rors as he ap­proached Carter­ton from the north one day in Fe­bru­ary was some­thing else again, he re­calls: “It was all over the place – drift­ing over the cen­tre­line into the face of on­com­ing traf­fic, then swerv­ing back to the cor­rect side. This wasn’t a once-off, it hap­pened sev­eral times.”

Shane re­alised he had to do some­thing, and quickly, as a se­ri­ous crash looked al­most in­evitable. His cool anal­y­sis and prompt re­sponse to the si­t­u­a­tion has now led to his nom­i­na­tion as a Cas­trolTruck­DriverHero – an ac­co­lade that recog­nises driv­ers who have con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the safety of others while work­ing, or in some other way have gone be­yond the call of duty for their em­ployer or the in­dus­try as a whole. In other words, herotype be­hav­iour needn’t be lim­ited only to road trauma...though in this in­stance, that was em­phat­i­cally a likely out­come.

Fear­ing the van driver was ei­ther drunk, drugged or suf­fer­ing a med­i­cal emer­gency, Shane ra­dioed Graeme Reisima, his boss at Master­ton’s Reisima Haulage, to call the Po­lice. Mean­while, the er­ratic driv­ing con­tin­ued. Time and again the van veered to the wrong side, forc­ing other ve­hi­cles to swerve out of its way, then tail­gat­ing the Isuzu 8x4 truck and trailer com­bi­na­tion Shane was driv­ing.

To com­pound the si­t­u­a­tion, a vin­tage car rally was pass­ing through Carter­ton at the time and the main street of the Wairarapa

town was car­ry­ing more traf­fic than usual. Sev­eral of the rally par­tic­i­pants were among those forced into emer­gency avoid­ance.

Shane con­tin­ues: “I knew some­thing was wrong, but I couldn’t tell what it was. The on­com­ing traf­fic didn’t have many places to go be­cause of the kerb and foot­path. When he came up be­hind me I put the left­hand in­di­ca­tor on to maybe sug­gest he move across to that side – but he swerved out to the mid­dle of the road.

“So I went with him, to try to block him, to avert a head-on, and slowed down. We weren’t go­ing all that quickly and I had moved back to the left when he crashed into me. I ran back to check if the driver was OK and he was out of it – dis­ori­ented and un­able to an­swer my ques­tions.

“An off-duty fire­man was driv­ing be­hind us and had seen the whole episode. He asked the van driver if he was a di­a­betic and got a con­fir­ma­tion. I grabbed some wa­ter I had in the cab and he downed half a bot­tle, as well as some Coke the fire­man had, which brought him round a bit.

“By that time the Po­lice had ar­rived and got him in their car with the air­con­di­tion­ing go­ing, be­cause he was as hot as blazes.”

Graeme Reisima was at his desk in Master­ton when he got the ra­dio call from Shane, telling him of the wildly er­ratic be­hav­iour of the van and ask­ing him to get in touch with the Po­lice straight away: “I was in the process of call­ing *555 and also try­ing to raise Brian Gra­ham, Toll’s Master­ton de­pot man­ager, when Shane called back to say the van had crashed into the back of his trailer and to call an am­bu­lance.

“I did so and headed straight down to Carter­ton, by which time the Po­lice were on the scene and were look­ing af­ter the van driver, and the am­bu­lance was on its way.

“Shane kept a re­ally cool head, but he’s that sort of guy – some­one who can stay calm when others might be pan­ick­ing. When he first called, I thought he sounded pretty stressed, which seemed a bit out of char­ac­ter, but it was only later when I saw the dash­cam pic­tures from the van that I re­alised the grav­ity of the si­t­u­a­tion he was in. Had he not acted as he did, things could have turned out re­ally badly.”

Brian Gra­ham, mean­while, came across the scene in Carter­ton quite by co­in­ci­dence: “I’d been in Mart­in­bor­ough for a meet­ing and had switched off my phone, so I didn’t re­alise Graeme Reisima was try­ing to call me. So it was quite a shock on the way home to come across the in­ci­dent. We found later that the driver was quite a se­ri­ous di­a­betic, but hadn’t been fully aware of his con­di­tion.

“Though he came up be­hind Shane, only when the truck slowed at the out­skirts of Carter­ton, re­ports from other road users in­di­cate he was hav­ing trou­ble as far back as Master­ton, around 15 kilo­me­tres up the high­way. In fact, Master­ton was where he had a sched­uled de­liv­ery, and he was so far gone he had passed through there without be­ing aware of it!

“I’d re­ally like to see Shane recog­nised for his pro­fes­sion­al­ism, the way he man­aged to slow right down, and as much as he could, block the van from on­com­ing traf­fic. He made an out­stand­ing call. Com­mer­cial driv­ers and the in­dus­try can get bad press at times, but some­thing like this shows peo­ple what can be done: There could eas­ily have been a fa­tal­ity or se­ri­ous in­jury, but be­cause of Shane we ended up with no in­jury, and min­i­mal dam­age to the ve­hi­cles.”

Both Graeme and Brian strongly sup­port Shane’s nom­i­na­tion as a Cas­trolTruck­DriverHero, say­ing that his quick and calm re­sponse was ex­actly what was needed in the cir­cum­stances.

Shane down­plays the tag of hero: “It was one of those things. I just hap­pened to be in the right place at the right time.” T&D

Hair-rais­ing im­ages from the on­board cam­era in the Toll van (left), dur­ing the driver’s ap­par­ent di­a­betic episode. Mo­torists, in­clud­ing par­tic­i­pants in a vin­tage car rally, were con­fronted by the van veer­ing di­rectly into their path....un­til Shane Pre­ston (above) – see­ing it hap­pen­ing in his truck’s rear-vi­sion mir­rors – man­aged to cor­ral the van be­hind him, pre­vent­ing a likely head-on ac­ci­dent

Right, top: A num­ber of cars had to take eva­sive ac­tion to avoid a head-on crash be­fore Shane got the op­por­tu­nity to stop the van Right, bot­tom: Shane’s first at­tempt to guide the van off to the side of the road, saw the driver swerve back to the right Be­low: Shane reck­ons he’s no hero

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