Fatal truck crash prompts demands against snap border closures


An early morning collision with trucks stationary on the Western Highway sees one driver dead

Fatal truck crash prompts demands against snap border closures
A Facebook image of the crash and fire

 

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA),the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) have laid significant responsibility for a fatal and fiery truck crash on the Victoria-South Australia border on abrupt travel-rule changes by states.

A so-far unidentified driver is dead after the 2.20am crash on February 11 that saw three trucks engulfed in flames at Serviceton, some 6km east of the border that was close two hours earlier after a 9pm SA Police alert.

SA Police officers joined Victoria Police and Victorian Major Crash officers at the scene.

The incident comes after 11 months of industry concern at sudden border closures due to efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Victorian Transport Association extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to family, friends and colleagues of the heavy vehicle driver who died in a collision at the South Australian border overnight," CEO Peter Anderson says.

"What makes his death all the more tragic is that it wouldn’t have happened had there not been another kneejerk closure of the South Australian border with Victoria.

"The VTA will continue to work with governments and the police to devise more safe and effective ways of managing border closures as they apply to freight operators, who for months have been working hard and under immense pressure during the pandemic to keep our national supply chains running seamlessly."


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NatRoad insists moves to restrict border passage must be reviewed due to the unintended consequences this sort of closure can entail.

"At a systemic level, the hazards created by long queues and vehicles rushing to their destination following a sudden announcement about border closures need examination," NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says, while offering condolences to the family of the deceased and wishing a speedy recovery for the injured.

"There is a national freight protocol that has been agreed by the National Cabinet. 

"NatRoad urges all state and territory governments to abide by these rules.

"Sudden border closures are heightening road safety risks and should be re-thought.

"In addition, wherever possible there should be dedicated freight lanes on interstate highways to help the industry keep the nation’s essential supplies moving.

"Sudden border closures not only disrupt the general public but have serious effects on heavy vehicle drivers’ fatigue management, the timely delivery of goods, as well as creating safety concerns.

"Additionally, NatRoad’s long-held view is that a dedicated authority such as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau [ATSB] should be given the power to promptly and fully investigate serious truck accidents, such as this accident, and to share the results and recommendations publicly so that all industry participants can take the appropriate action to reduce the road toll.

"That role should also encompass better research on trends and causal factors relating to heavy vehicle crashes as well as the effects of COVID-19 restrictions.

"Currently, both data and research are inadequate to formulate benchmarks to properly measure ways to improve road safety.

"NatRoad has a deep commitment to improving road safety. Measures which will help the community achieve fewer road incidents must be prioritised and the management of COVID-19 should not add to road safety concerns," Clark says.

TWU SA/NT branch secretary Ian Smith.

The TWU wants to see specific lanes for trucks automatically set up before borders are closed to allow truckies to continue their essential work without being forced to risk driving while fatigue.

TWU SA/NT branch secretary Ian Smith observes reports of trucks backed up at the border last night are disturbing and may have contributed to the crash.

"This crash is an absolute tragedy that could have been avoided with proper consultation and notice," Smith says.

"This once again highlights the urgent need for consultation with key industry stakeholders to avoid such circumstances from happening in the future.

"Hard border closures need to be implemented properly and the Marshall Governments’ knee-jerk response shows a lack of understanding of the industry.

"If the federal government continues to turn their back on truckies and refuse to come to the table to develop a national plan for border closures, it’s only matter of time before we see more tragedy on our roads."

TWU Victorian and Tasmanian branch secretary John Berger notes that truck drivers, as essential workers, are left to deal with the chaos of each border closure and demands that this stop.

"Having truck drivers stuck for hours at borders each time there is a COVID outbreak is not acceptable," Berger says.

"It is clear we will have to live with COVID for some time yet, therefore it is vital that a national plan is put in place to protect truckies and other road users. Fatigue is a major killer in our industry and it is abhorrent that drivers are being forced to work fatigued all because the Federal Government won’t put in place clear guidelines on border closures," Berger said.

The TWU also wants to see a national plan on borders to include:

  • Border closures implemented during daylight hours and with adequate notice, to minimise risk association with peak freight times
  • Assurances that truck stops will stay open so that drivers can still access rest areas for food and showers.
  • Assurances that showers and rest areas at truck stops for truck drivers will be cleaned and disinfected adequately
  • Clarity that trucks will still be allowed to cross state borders and that truck drivers will be exempt from self-isolation requirements
  • Clarity about any measures in place at border crossings to check trucks and truck drivers crossing, whether this includes temperature checks on drivers, logbook checks and more
  • Assurances that truck drivers will be supplied at these border crossings with hand sanitisers, masks, gloves and information
  • Clarity on any measures in place for truck drivers when they enter states to protect themselves and others
  • Assistance in ensuring that clients pay owner drivers and transport operators on time.
  • Assurances that owner drivers who are in financial distress are given financial assistance.

 

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