Crash not iso­lated in­ci­dent

The 50th ac­ci­dent in NSW in 12 months

Big Rigs - - COLUMN -

MOUNT Ous­ley is the only way in and out of Wol­lon­gong and Port Kem­bla for heavy ve­hi­cles.

It is also one of the most dif­fi­cult – and there­fore po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous – des­cents in Aus­tralia, es­pe­cially if you’ve never done it be­fore, or you’re not to­tally fa­mil­iar with the truck you’re driv­ing, or if the truck you are driv­ing isn’t well main­tained.

The morn­ing of Novem­ber 5, a truck driven by a 21-year-old in­ter­na­tional stu­dent ploughed across the Princes High­way, right through the round­about at the bot­tom of Mount Ous­ley Rd.

It went across the carpark of McDon­ald’s Fairy Meadow and didn’t stop un­til it hit an apart­ment block, wedg­ing an SUV – and the driver in­side it – against the build­ing. The cars it crashed through were knocked out of the way “like toys”, ac­cord­ing to one wit­ness de­scrip­tion.

It’s a mir­a­cle no one was killed. Three peo­ple went to hos­pi­tal, in­clud­ing the driver.

Af­ter the ac­ci­dent, the TWU re­ceived in­for­ma­tion, con­firmed by RMS and the NSW Po­lice, that the truck he was driv­ing was not even re­motely well main­tained.

A ma­jor de­fect no­tice was is­sued for the ve­hi­cle. Among other de­fects, the brakes were de­fec­tive and ev­ery tyre was bald. But it wasn’t even the only ve­hi­cle. The com­pany, Syd­ney-based Hari Om, was is­sued a de­fect no­tice for ev­ery sin­gle truck in its fleet. You read that right. Ev­ery. Sin­gle. One.

For peo­ple out­side the in­dus­try this seems shock­ing, but of course we know all too well that Hari Om is not alone in this, and this in­ci­dent is not iso­lated.

Cow­boy op­er­a­tors will al­ways run rogue in our in­dus­try and con­tinue to give it a bad name – not to men­tion con­tinue to put lives at risk – un­less the book is thrown at them.

But un­der cur­rent leg­is­la­tion, it’s more like the book is lightly tossed in a com­pany’s di­rec­tion, while the driver gets slammed un­der ev­ery page.

We need leg­is­la­tion that puts re­spon­si­bil­ity and cru­cial ac­count­abil­ity at ev­ery level of the sup­ply chain, all the way to the top – rather than just in the driver’s seat.

Leg­is­la­tion that com­pels op­er­a­tors to stop cut­ting cor­ners on safety – to main­tain proper up­keep of ve­hi­cles, to hire ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers and in­vest in driver train­ing, and to com­ply with safety pro­to­cols like cor­rect fa­tigue main­te­nance.

We need an in­de­pen­dent reg­u­la­tor to make sure it’s be­ing done.

In 2012, af­ter 20 years of cam­paign­ing, we got one. In 2016, the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment ripped it apart, and the num­ber of truck fa­tal­i­ties on NSW roads jumped by 86 per cent in one year alone.

This is the third ac­ci­dent at the foot of Mount Ous­ley Rd in 12 years, and the 50th in NSW in the past 12 months.

No one died this time, but un­less the sys­tem changes, one day some­one will.

PHOTO: NSW PO­LICE TRAF­FIC AND COM­MAND

DAN­GER­OUS: The truck went through the McDon­ald’s at Fairy Mead­ows and didn't stop un­til it hit an apart­ment block.

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