Drivers risk death at sub-standard rest areas: report

By: Jason Whittaker

A new report gives a damning indictment on the state of heavy vehicle rest areas, citing inadequate facilities which are

A new report gives a damning indictment on the state of heavy vehicle rest areas, citing inadequate facilities which are increasing the risk of fatigue-related accidents.

So bad are the findings the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is calling for a national rest areas defence in impending fatigue management laws.

The report, released by Austroads, found none of the 1,111 rest areas audited fully met spacing and duplication recommendations with 60 percent showing substantial deficiencies in the frequency or provision of rest opportunities.

According to the report, incorrect duplication is putting heavy vehicle drivers at risk of death because they are forced to access rest areas via right-hand turns or by parking the vehicle and walking to the area by foot.

Most heavy vehicle operators cannot access basic facilities such as toilets or drinking water with the audit showing 80 and 73 percent of rest areas have no toilets or drinking water respectively.

The report listed extremely low compliance areas, which included major routes such as the Princes, Federal, Sturt and Hume highways.

It found Queensland’s rest areas were in a shocking state, with the State recording the lowest compliance rate with space requirements in its major and minor rest areas.

The report is a result of an audit of 12,700km of major national freight routes, with 10,800km making up the AusLink network. The 1,111 rest areas audited included 78 major, 292 minor, and 741 truck parking bays.

The report has put the onus on governments to invest more in rest areas, arguing that neglect will jeopardise the benefits of fatigue reform laws because drivers will not be able to comply with rest regulations and will also put drivers at risk of a serious or fatal accident.

ATA Chief Executive Stuart St Clair says governments must heed the findings of the report and ensure their respective rest areas are capable of meeting demands once fatigue management laws come into effect in September.

"These new laws will only work if there are enough rest areas for drivers to stop," he says.

"They can’t just park on the shoulder of a major highway and go to sleep for seven hours - it’s unsafe and they wouldn’t get to sleep anyway."

While welcoming the Federal Governments $70 million road and safety package, of which some will be diverted to rest areas, St Clair says it is not enough and more must be done.

"It’s a good start but building the rest areas we need will require a concerted effort by all levels of government, including more funding from the Australian Government in the years to come," he says.

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