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NatRoad chair makes road safety plea

Road safety

NatRoad chair Paul Fellows says he has encountered an alarming number of concerns over road safety on the Eyre Highway between South Australia and Western Australia.

He recently attended the industry association’s forum in Mount Gambier, where he says he heard from many concerned people within the transport sector.

These concerns have arisen following the tragic deaths of three truck drivers near Yalata earlier in April, which drew headlines and national attention. This has been followed by comments from the likes of South Australian Road Transport Association chief officer Steve Shearer saying reports are emerging of unsafe driving along the highway.

“I will say that the 1200km road linking Western Australia to the rest of the country has been carrying an enormous volume of freight since floods temporarily closed the Trans-Australian Railway line in March,” Fellows says.

“There have been reports of some operators being offered lucrative sums to haul loads and meet urgent deadlines with some new and inexperienced drivers suddenly finding themselves behind the wheel.

“While the rail line has re-opened and the backlog is subsiding, the behaviour of some inexperienced drivers is a problem that isn’t going away. One of my own guys had a brush with death recently and I’ve heard similar stories from others.

“We need an urgent industry conversation about driver competency.”

Calls for changes to the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework have now been ongoing for years. Industry is growing fed up with the ‘time spent’ method for licence upgrades, simply requiring drivers to hold their licence before being able to upgrade it for a certain amount of time.

An Austroads review offered solutions, including the need for proven hours and monitored driving in order to continue up the licencing scale, to try and develop a new truly national framework.

“With the driver shortage continuing to bite, now is the time for regulators to stop navel-gazing and act – urgently,” Fellows says.

He wants drivers to be aware of their options when it comes to helping stop dangerous driving on Australia’s roads – namely the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s Heavy Vehicle Confidential Reporting Line.

“If you see dangerous driver behaviour, the Heavy Vehicle Confidential Reporting Line on 1800 931 785 is a secure, national, confidential telephone service to report safety issues. Calling police is an option if there’s a risk to life,” Fellows says.

“Dobbing may not sit comfortably with some, but it could be your life or that of a friend or workmate that you save.”

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