YOU NEED TO LEARN: Truckies say motorists need to learn how to behave around heavy vehicles.
YOU NEED TO LEARN: Truckies say motorists need to learn how to behave around heavy vehicles.

'Motorists need urgent education' says trucking industry

TO REGULATE further or not, that is the question - the one that seems to be on the tip of every policy-maker's tongue after a horror month on our roads.

Yet our truck drivers have a different take on the situation.

With 93 per cent* of heavy vehicle accidents being found to be the fault of a light vehicle, those in the industry instead see more education of all road users as key.

EDUCATION IS A MUST: Robyn Cooper-Radke, now based in Queensland, has spent her life in the trucking industry.
EDUCATION IS A MUST: Robyn Cooper-Radke, now based in Queensland, has spent her life in the trucking industry. Contributed

For Robyn Cooper-Radke, who has been involved in the road transport industry all of her life, the push for education on our roadways couldn't be more important.

As someone who has felt the impact of a heavy vehicle fatality first-hand, she is one of many seeking change.

"I received the phone call that no family ever wants to experience when my late father-in-law was tragically killed at Tocumwal in 1997," Robyn said.

"No family ever sends their loved one to work only to have the police knock on their door or receive that phone call.

"We lost another driver the other night - a driver married with two young children, who now have to live the rest of their lives without a father and husband."

While safety initiatives have been put in place for heavy vehicles over the years, Robyn believes the focus must now be placed on light vehicle behaviour.

"We have lost five truck drivers in the space of two days," she said.

"The industry has implemented so many regulations and safety procedures over the years for drivers but the public awareness of how to interact with heavy vehicles isn't there.

"The public awareness needs to go back to the beginning. Truck companies have really gone as far as they can.

"But the general public just has no idea how to drive around trucks. We have drivers we send out and we want them to come home."

Robyn has, however, commended the recent education campaign run by NSW Police which shows average drivers what it is like to sit inside the cab of the truck.

"It is great but there needs to be more of it," Robyn said.

"Whether it is state, territory or local governments - they need to go back to the basics, as do the media networks.

"If just one person picks up these skills, that could be one less accident on our roads."

Ben Maguire, CEO of the Australian Trucking Association, which was one of the many industry organisations that met with the NSW Minister for Transport on the matter, said education had been a topic of discussion.

"The real message that we got across is we need to see benefit," he said.

"If there is going to be impost, or more intervention on fatigue management or vehicle maintenance or anything to do with operating in this industry we need to see what the real benefits are."

He said the group also acknowledged the fatalities caused by small vehicles

"More awareness and more driver training for smaller vehicles is imperative if you want to save lives on the road," he said.

A point which he says received "various levels of reception".

"We are certainly pushing for it at the moment and it seems to be understood. It is actually not that much of a complex issue to solve - if we raise the bar for all getting licensed I don't see anyone in the community who is really going to have an issue with it," he said.

Do you believe new drivers should undergo training on how to share the road with heavy vehicles?

This poll ended on 02 March 2018.

Current Results

Yes we need it now

96%

More is good, but it's not necessary

1%

No drivers are trained enough

1%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

This month also saw the launch of Operation Rolling Thunder, Australia's largest ever police operation on heavy vehicles - a move that was publicly slammed by NatRoad, which has also called for further concentration on light vehicles.

While the industry group said it understands why the police seek to address road safety, they are concerned truckies are being painted as the enemy through negative connotations in the media.

"The road toll is not going to be reduced in a context of blaming the truck industry in isolation for the regrettable deaths that occur on Australia's roads," NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said.

Outside of the furore and on the frontline, NSW Police Chief Inspector Phil Brooks said more than one factor ws involved in the tragedies.

"I think you can't escape the fact that NSW carries the bulk of the nation's road traffic," Inspector Brooks said.

"In terms of risk, NSW obviously carries that risk of the greater amount of vehicles on the road - with the greater amount of traffic comes at a greater amount of risk," he said.

"There are significant issues on our roads and that is combined with what I would term personal responsibility."

Inspector Brooks said the NSW Police Service, in partnership with the Roads and Maritime Service, leads the nation in terms of heavy vehicle compliance.

"We have significant programs out there in terms of safety, however when you look at these recent heavy vehicle deaths, the locations being in rural New South Wales in prefect driving conditions, I think fatigue is a reasonable consideration for these sad and tragic events," he said.

"I think it is really people who are driving extended periods of time and the ones who are teaching our younger drivers who really need to check their own capabilities.

"With these fatal crashes over the Christmas break on our roads - many of those are older drivers who have sadly lost their lives."

 

LIGHT VEHICLE CRASH RATE: NTARC's 2017 Major Accident Investigation Report.
LIGHT VEHICLE CRASH RATE: NTARC's 2017 Major Accident Investigation Report. Contributed

* The 2017 the National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) report

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