TWU demands inquest into heavy vehicle fatalities in QLD

By: Jason Whittaker

"Criminal bosses" and "crooked loading agents" will be in for a rude shock if the Queensland Government launches an inquest

"Criminal bosses" and "crooked loading agents" will be in for a rude shock if the Queensland Government launches an inquest into heavy vehicle fatalities, according to Hughie Williams of the Transport Workers Union (TWU).

Williams, Queensland’s TWU Branch Secretary, met with Attorney-General Kerry Shine today requesting an inquest into why the heavy vehicle road toll has hit 20, 15 more deaths than this time last year.

Williams says Shine was supportive of the TWU’s stance and will take the TWU’s concerns to Premier Anna Bligh as well as State Coroner Michael Barnes.

"The Attorney-General is of the same opinion as us," Williams says. "Too many people have been killed and it has got to stop."

Although Barnes plans a review into heavy vehicle fatalities, Williams says the Bligh Government must launch an inquest to bring to justice businesses that willingly float occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws, such as excessive driving hours, or push drugs on to their drivers.

Williams says an inquest into heavy vehicle fatalities will "scare the daylights" out of people or businesses doing the wrong thing because it will permit the Government to bring people before a court, cross-examine them and, if necessary, lay charges or impose a jail term.

"We want to see people who are causing these problems, such as drug sellers, crooked loading agents, criminal bosses…and anybody in the industry who is pushing drivers to take drugs or to drive illegal hours…brought before the inquest…charged and…jail[ed]," Williams says.

"[It is] these people who are creating all of this unnecessary carnage."

Williams hopes Shine will raise the union’s concerns in Parliament in order to give politicians from both sides the chance to express their views on what should be done to curb the heavy vehicle road toll.

The TWU will also be lobbying State MPs to support an inquest.

"We will not only be talking to Labor members of Parliament, I am going to ring around some of the National Party people and the Liberal Party people and say, ‘well, what are you going to do?’, Williams says.

"They will see the opportunity to get on the bandwagon with us."

Williams also pointed to poor infrastructure as a cause of heavy vehicle fatalities in Queensland. He says the Government should be using revenue gained from the transport industry to upgrade Queensland’s roads.

"The Bruce Highway, for instance, is a bloody disgrace," Williams says. "How two semi-trailers can pass on that road is a bloody problem."

Furthermore, Williams has called on the State Government to develop more truck stop facilities to address driver fatigue. He says having drivers pull over on the side of the road is not acceptable because they are at risk of being side-swiped by passing traffic.

"We are all saying that drivers should stop and have a rest, but where do they stop and have a rest at," Williams says.

"There should be truck stops designed for people which can be in placed about six hours apart where drivers can have a shower and get something to eat."

While focusing solely on Queensland for the moment, Williams is hopeful other state and territory governments will launch inquests if need be.

"We have all got to get together and do something about it," he says.

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