Kerang crash coroner calls for NHVR action


Hendtlass wants national regulator to move on increased brake checking and maintenance

October 21, 2013

A Victorian coroner is seeking National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) involvement in the cause of level-crossing safety in the state.

In her recommendations following a two-year investigation of the deadly 2007 Kerang crash and other such incidents, Coroner Dr Jane Hendtlass also urges the State Government to explore technological and other innovations to tackle the issue.

Among her 25 recommendations, Hendtlass calls for the NHVR to amend its code of practice to "require inspection of brake pads and push rod extensions weekly or fortnightly" and to "ensure that mechanics performing maintenance on heavy vehicles have access to and comply with manufacturers’ maintenance instructions".

She also seeks the expansion of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVR)
"to include all Victorian heavy vehicle operators who perform their own maintenance in-house".

The coroner wants Transport Safety Victoria and VicRoads to investigate and implement improvements to level-crossing warning systems, including horns or sirens, while undertaking research on human factors in alerting drivers who have missed traditional safety signals.

The organisations, along with VicTrack, are called on to investigate and cooperate in implementing "in-vehicle warning systems as the next stage of warning road vehicle drivers who fail to respond to existing level crossing paraphernalia that a train is approaching".

VicRoads and Standards Australia are asked to amend their standards to require warning signals and visibility of trains to be "at least 131 metres before the level crossing, more on B-double and B-triple combination routes".

The Kerang disaster led to a number of reviews of level-crossing safety nationwide, one of which, by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau pointed out that Victoria was by far the deadliest sate for level-crossing incidents".

At the time, the Australian Trucking Association called for upgrades including installing rumble strips and reducing vision-restrictive clutter, improving sight lines, reducing train speeds and installing flashing lights and boom gates on crossings deemed to be high risk.

The 2007 disaster led to the deaths of 11 people on a passenger train hit by a truck at a crossing near the town.

Truck driver Cristiaan Scholl gained a Supreme Court acquittal on 11 charges of culpable driving causing death in 2009 on evidence that the crossing was dangerous and that there had been number of previous near-misses and warnings to authorities of its risks.

The full set of recommendations can be found here.

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