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Association calls for road toll action with heavy vehicle safety plan

Safety has always been a key pillar of the truck industry. Associations around Australia, left reeling following recent incidents, are now calling for a national focus on safety standards in the Australian transport sector

Western Roads Federation (WRF) CEO Cam Dumesny is one of many transport industry members left dismayed and disheartened by Australia’s road toll.

The recent tragic road accident deaths on the Eyre Highway – the only main freight route between Perth and Adelaide – have left many family and friends grieving and has deeply impacted the transport industry. This includes Dumesny, who has now decided that enough is enough when it comes to tragic accidents involving heavy vehicles on Australian roads.

With plenty of sorrow for the families and friends impacted by this latest incident, Dumesny is now raising questions about what he calls “the industry’s declining safety and professional standards”.

“Questions are being asked about the industry’s safety standards by a range of bodies and people,” Dumesny told ATN.

“Whether it be police and regulators or local governments and numerous transport companies, I’ve spoken to lots of people about this very serious issue.

“Those killed in these road accidents, and the family and friends that they leave behind, are paying the ultimate price.”

Dumesny has been quick to act. Last Friday, the WRF convened a meeting at short notice with a range of stakeholders, including police, regulators, emergency services, policy makers, insurers and operators from around the country, to address the growing safety problem the industry is facing.

The meeting allowed attendees to share their concerns, with Dumesny leaving the meeting vowing to not let tragic road incidents continue.

“Action must be taken,” he says. “We’ve proposed a range of solutions, from immediate action to medium term plans.”

In the short term, Dumesny’s plan features urgent action being taken to stem road accidents and restore confidence to drivers while they’re out on the road. This starts with a nationally coordinated four-week road safety blitz courtesy of a joint taskforce comprising police, regulators, immigration authorities and WorkSafe.

This taskforce will be supplemented by a detail investigation process that will look into all fatal accidents nationally that involve a heavy vehicle to determine when and where the heavy vehicle driver obtained their licence.

The final part of the immediate strategy involves the WRF working with state transport licensing authorities to conduct random on-site inspections of bodies that train drivers and provide licenses to ensure that all drivers on the roads are adequately trained.

In the medium term, Dumesny’s plan involves accelerating the transition to nationally developed heavy vehicle driver training standards while also bringing heavy vehicle driver licence testing back to in-house processes within each state and territory authority.

The WRF CEO also wants to see licensing become a stepped process from HC to MC by adding an intermediate licence class. On top of this, remote area driver education developed by the WRF and the Northern Territory Road Transport Association (NTRTA) is high on Dumesny’s list to be introduced Australia-wide.

The plan also calls for transport associations to leverage networks with WorkSafe to investigate how its laws can be applied to capture operators and customers applying undue pressure and punish them. Under these laws, Dumesny also wants WorkSafe to investigate customers that award transport contracts without due regard to a transport company’s safety systems and compliance processes.

As part of a final pillar to restore public confidence in truck drivers around Australia and improve safety standards, Dumesny wants to identify options that can prevent unsafe or high risk drivers from flipping between companies and continuing to drive on the nation’s roads.

It’s an issue that is burning at Dumesny. Although the greatest impact of these tragic road accidents is on the victims and their families and friends, he says the Australian transport industry also pays a price each time an incident occurs.

“There are many ways that these incidents affect our industry – for example, insurance premiums for all in the sector rise significantly due to the national increase in truck accidents,” Dumesny says.

“It then also leads to state and federal governments being under pressure from local governments to restrict access to some routes for heavy vehicles due to safety concerns, while there are now increased reports from industry members that experienced drivers are leaving the industry because they regard it as too dangerous of a profession.

“Above all, our industry pays a moral price we don’t pay respect to those killed or injured in these incidents. The way we pay respect to them is by working to fix these safety problems.”

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