Wheels of death: Truck safety hits dangerous low

THERE are industry concerns that maintenance of many trucks on Toowoomba roads has hit dangerously low levels.

Disturbing findings from a Coroner's inquest into lax maintenance procedures at a Toowoomba trucking business could be true of more than just one operator in the region.

That is the view of Queensland Transport Worker's Union secretary Peter Biagini, who voiced concerns in the wake of an inquest into the Warrego Hwy death of Scott Anthony Bennett.

Heavy vehicles make up more than 21 per cent of all vehicles that travel on James St, with Transport and Main Roads figures showing 3,093 heavy vehicles use the stretch of road daily.

Deputy State Coroner John Lock found the dangerous condition of the St George Freightlines road train's brakes was a significant factor in causing the vehicle to jack-knife near Jondaryan on January 25, 2012.


It crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic, colliding with the 4WD in which Mr Bennett and his wife Patricia were travelling.

"The findings are actually the type of things we have been raising for some time now," Mr Biagini said.

He said when crashes were investigated as extensively as Mr Bennett's fatal incident had been, the cause was often found to be maintenance issues or lack of fatigue management.

He said pressure to compete for contracts in Toowoomba's transport market could tempt operators to cut corners on maintenance.

"They are all competing with each other for a smaller market.

"It seems to be worse in that area."

He said all truck crashes should be investigated as workplace incidents.

The Coroner's inquest found the company St George Freightlines was one of a few transport operations owned by the Loughlin family.

It found maintenance of the crashed truck and trailers was monitored under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme.

Under the scheme, operators are responsible for completing and recording maintenance of their vehicles, with those practices audited to ensure compliance.

Organisation of the audits is the responsibility of the transport company.

It is the same scheme under which Cootes Transport operated its petrol tankers before a rollover killed two people at Mona Vale, north of Sydney, in October last year.

The scheme has been under review by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and National Transport Commission since November last year.

Australian Trucking Association immediate past chair David Simon, whose family owns Toowoomba business Simon National Carriers, said he supported the review of the scheme.

"It hasn't been effective," Mr Simon said.

"There are better models such as Australian Trucking Association's TruckSafe which may provide a better platform and safety outcomes for the industry and community in the future.

He said the independence of auditors was one of the benefits of TruckSafe.

"Operators have no say in who comes and knocks on their door."

A Department of Transport and Main Roads spokeswoman said inspectors regularly conducted on-road intercepts across the state to check compliance.

"These intercepts also target vehicle safety, fatigue, mass, dimension and loading requirements," she said.

"Inspectors can also conduct random vehicle safety checks at operators' premises, either by arrangement or as part of an investigation or audit."

She said the department worked with industry to deliver educational sessions on topics including vehicle safety, fatigue, mass, dimension and loading requirements and chain of responsibility.

The Loughlin family declined to comment.

Topics:  coroner editors picks heavy vehicle toowoomba trucks union

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