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Inside the QTAs first on scene training program

Heavy vehicle drivers have a lot to worry about at the best of times, yet many drivers will also have to deal with being first on the scene at road accidents in regional areas during their careers. ATN sat down with the QTA’s CEO Gary Mahon to talk about the program that will help better prepare drivers for such scenarios.

When road accidents happen in rural areas of Australia, often the first people to arrive at the scene are truck drivers. Dealing with road accidents, or any accident, when you’re not trained professionally in how to do so, can be a traumatic experience. 

The first person at a road accident scene may have to not only contact emergency services themselves, but also possibly stay at the site with the victim until help arrives and, in some cases, render assistance themselves to the best of their ability. 

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) recently responded to a survey undertaken with truck drivers in the Northern Territory (NT) and Western Australia (WA), which found that of regional and remote drivers who had stopped at road accidents, 70 per cent of them were the first to arrive, and 50 per cent provided assistance themselves for at least an hour while waiting for emergency services. 

Indications from these statistics and observations from other States and Territories in Australia, led the QTA to seek funding from the Motor Accident Insurance Commission to launch its own training and awareness program to increase  incident response capability and help drivers deal with rural and remote road accidents. 

QTA CEO Gary Mahon  says the course will be about helping drivers to better prepare themselves and look after their mental health. With truck drivers already under enormous pressure, the added stress and trauma associated with encountering a road accident only adds to this. 

“Research shows that if people are a bit better prepared to go about the tasks required at an accident scene and have more context about what they’re doing they have a higher chance of coping with the related after effects,” says Mahon.

The program, known as the “first on scene remote incident training program”, will aim to equip drivers with skills that can help them first, better determine if they should stop at a road accident site, and second, how best to prioritise assistance. 

“There will not be any expectation that drivers have to stop at a road accident scene, the course is about providing the training and support so that if they choose to stop, they are that much better equipped to deal with it,” says Mahon. 

The course is designed to not only better prepare drivers to respond to accidents but also to help to improve relationships between transport workers and emergency services operators such as the state police and ambulance service. 

Certainly, in an industry where animosity can exist between drivers and road authorities a common cause and objective can help to build mutual trust and respect. 

“During the training program being delivered by QPS/QAS among others, it’s a good opportunity for drivers to also ask questions and improve their understanding of the role of police and ambulance workers as first responders,” says Mahon. 

“In the Queensland context it was very important we had full Police and Ambulance support. As well as safety training from Energy Queensland on how to respond where powerlines may be impacted.

“The Police will deliver parts of the program that deal with the preservation of safety at a scene until professionals arrive. 

“Queensland Ambulance Service will also talk about the things drivers should and shouldn’t do if they choose to respond to a road accident scene, while St John’s will deliver a course that deals more specifically with first aid response in that first critical hour.” 

Although only a pilot program has been planned, the QTA has already received overwhelming interest with an oversubscription of applicants received after the first expression of interest. 

“The course has been incredibly well received, there is enormous interest already in the program,” says Mahon. “We were way over subscribed with drivers interested in the program.” 

The course will run for five hours in a classroom environment with representatives from the police and ambulance services delivering their own learning content. There are 150 funded places in the pilot course. 

The long-term goal is for the course to become standard training for drivers in the State. 

“We’re hoping to establish a well-credentialled program that can make a strong argument for this sort of training package to become mainstream,” says Mahon. 

In 2023 the QTA will be facilitating at eight different locations around Queensland in regional and remote areas. It will also be seeking extensive feedback from the drivers who participate in the pilot program to ensure the content being delivered reflects the lived experiences of the drivers. 

“We’re keen to hear some feedback from truck drivers and understand their perspectives. The course, after all is about giving them the right tools to make better decisions,” says Mahon.  

The program will also have a research component performed by Griffith University who will be evaluating the effectiveness of the training.


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