Complaints hotline puts log truck drivers under microscope

NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson has launched a log-truck driver behaviour reporting service

July 1, 2011

NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson has launched a log-truck driver behaviour reporting service.

The service is aimed at improving log truck driver safety and behaviour but also to give clarity to otherwise unproven claims.

The 1800 LOGHAUL number – 1800 5644285 – was developed jointly by Forests NSW and the Forest Industry Council and is believed to have been driven hard by the former.

"This number will allow other road users to phone a call centre with compliments or complaints about log truck activity," Hodgkinson says.

"It’s particularly important at this time of year, leading up to school holidays, when more drivers are travelling on highways.

"We are inviting members of the public to call in if they see good or bad behaviour or any safety issues with the truck or load, that they want to report."

Each log truck operated by contractors to Forests NSW will have a sign bearing the 1800 telephone number as well as an individual truck identification number.

The program will begin in the Tumut region and then roll out across other Forests NSW areas.

"Loghaul will gather data on driver behaviour and highlight positive driving as well as other safety areas that are causing concern to the public," Hodgkinson says.

"Forests NSW is committed to improving all aspects of safety, and log truck driver behaviour is part of that process."

Contractors will conduct investigations into all complaints and use the outcomes to improve safety across their fleets.

Calls from the public will go to an independent call centre where the date, time, location and incident details will be recorded, along with caller details and truck identification number. The details of callers will be kept confidential, according to the minister.

Contractors will then be able to provide feedback to callers, if requested, on the steps that have been taken to prevent the reoccurrence of the issue that is raised.

"The final measure of success will be the reduction in vehicle accidents and an improved public perception of the industry," Hodgkinson says.

Forests NSW Planted Forest Operations Director Ian Brown says that as far as transport contractors are concerned, the service is voluntary.

The initiative had come following random and unsubstantiated accusations about log truck driver behaviour.

It was launched with a view to gaining a clearer picture of the issue at a time when the new Visy pulp mill in Tumut had led to greater truck traffic in the region.

The hotline service is seen as a way of gaining greater communication with and feedback from the public and follows a similar program in New Zealand.

Brown says the New Zealand experience showed a third of responses had been positive and mostly concerning courtesy on the road.

The Forest Industry Council counts Greenfreight Logging, G&J Groves and the Roads and Traffic Authority as members.

A spokesman for G&J Groves says the company views the initiative "as a positive, as long as it’s used in the correct way".

"It does bring a bit of accountability for the guys on the road but it should also reward the guys who are doing the correct thing as well," the spokesman says.

"Time will tell if it is successful or not."

He believes that giving the public an outlet to report perceived incidents will be a positive for the companies involved whose drivers do the right thing, as it will differentiate them from others.

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