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Industry shines light on remote transport hidden tragedy

Associations to undertake heavy vehicle driver first responder study


A prevalent but often hidden facet of industry about to receive significant examination is the wellbeing of heavy vehicle drivers in remote areas who become first responders to road accidents.

The NT Road Transport Association (NTRTA) and Western Roads Federation (WRF) have highlighted the importance of supporting drivers in such situations, who are often made to bear the emotional scars “without consideration of their mental health”.

NTRTA and WRF will be consulting with drivers and member companies to better understand the extent of problem, after receiving funding as part of National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) 2019 Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI), supported by the Federal Government.

Read more about the 24 projects forming the latest round of HVSI funding, here

The associations use the example of a truck driver who was the first responder on a remote regional road and was required to provide substantial first aid for nearly three hours until emergency services arrived.

The single vehicle accident involved a family with young children, where one adult was deceased and the other in critical condition.

“These stories are all too common in remote and regional WA and the NT, where drivers have been first responders at accidents from very serious to fatal,” the peak bodies say in a statement.

“As first responder they have been required to administer first aid often for prolonged periods, call and assist emergency services in locating the accident site, and in some instances also try and ensure the safety of the site from other approaching vehicles.”

Once they are relieved of their tasks by emergency services, they are often allowed to continue their journey, without consideration of their mental health both in the immediate and longer term, NTRTA CEO Louise Bilato explains.

“The problem is no one knows how often this occurs. Yet we know from industry stories that it is happening.

“It is a tragic hidden problem that we must address.”

As part of the project, a USA-developed Stop the Bleed program will be delivered in five locations, to teach volunteer drivers:

  • How to communicate directly with emergency services, including Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), and what sort of information will be required
  • Maintaining safety at the scene for both the driver and others, in daylight and night-time incidents
  • Conducting a more detailed casualty assessment (once critical life-saving techniques have been applied) to look for and identify any other injuries that may require treatment and/or management
  • Dealing with trauma victims for extended periods before the arrival of emergency services personnel and improvising when needed.

The joint project will be led by Bilato, who has more than 30 years’ experience in remote area mental health and road transport, and will be co-ordinated with the Injury Matters project that was also funded by the HVSI.

The project findings will be reported back to the NHVR, state transport ministers through the Remote Area Consultative Group and local road safety focused groups such as TransafeWA.

NTRTA and WRF are encouraging drivers to contact them to share their experiences.


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