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Pavey gaff sucks attention from safety initiatives

Clumsy statement gains international coverage as NSW fatality spike continues


New South Wales roads minister Melinda Pavey has sought to push truck-related safety initiatives in the face of a spate of accidents.

However, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has thrown her own words back at her.

The union highlighted a statement to ABC News in which she says that in-cab safety technology “is now so advanced, a driver can be driving and get an electric shock if they look away from the windscreen for more than two seconds”.

“In only 24 hours, five people in NSW have been killed in three truck-related crashes. Rather than address the extreme and unfair working conditions that are causing truck deaths, NSW Roads Minister @melindapaveyMP has seriously suggested *electrocuting drivers behind the wheel*,” the union’s NSW branch tweeted.

The remark went international, including in the trucking press, with headlines including “Politician suggests electrocuting tired drivers”, “Truckers should be given electric shocks to stop them falling asleep, says Australian MP” and “Politician stuns trucking community by suggesting drowsy truckers should be electrically shocked”.

Beyond that, Pavey has announced that the state’s updated Road Safety Plan is due to be released in the coming weeks, aimed at identifying priority areas and associated measures, with a focus on all vehicle types, to help bring the road toll down.

But little of that was reported and that of her later clarification was limited.

“We have also established a Parliamentary Inquiry into heavy vehicle safety investigating the use of technology to improve road safety. We expect to have the full report by May this year,” Pavey says. 

The move is in response to a 45 per cent increase in heavy vehicle fatalities from 2016 to 2017 “and this needs to be addressed.

“The government is taking action on this issue. We have more than doubled the roads budget since 2011 to improve critical infrastructure across the state’s road network.

“This is in addition to investing in other heavy vehicle infrastructure, such as vehicle monitoring systems.”

She notes the state government is also improving vehicle standards with NSW leading the way nationally to introduce the Written Off Heavy Vehicle Register, which passed Parliament last year.

“This Heavy Vehicle Register will ensure that all heavy vehicles involved in incidents that are structurally unsafe are not re-registered and remain off our roads,” Pavey says.

“The issue of Heavy Vehicle Safety is one that is being addressed nationally, and all states are working together through forums such as the Transport and Infrastructure Council to address this issue.”

“We are also making sure that safety is a shared responsibility for everyone.”

While insisting NSW has the most comprehensive heavy vehicle safety and compliance system in the country, she acknowledges that government can only do so much.

“We will continue to invest in infrastructure, education, and improving policy and technology. But road safety is a two way street and we need the community to meet us halfway,” Pavey says.

“We need to change the way we think about road crashes. We need to start a new conversation, talk with each other about the way we behave on the road and bring the road toll closer Towards Zero.”

On the fatal accident near Dubbo, Pavey is quoted by several news sites as saying authorities will be cracking down on heavy vehicles’ safety compliance.

“We will be investigating thoroughly,” Pavey is quoted as telling reporters.

“We won’t be afraid to tackle those that are doing the wrong thing. It’s not just the truck driver, it might be the company and it might be the person that we’re supplying the goods to.”

She adds that the state needs “trucks on our roads but we need operators who are doing the right thing by using telematrics and at this point, I don’t see that that is the majority of heavy vehicle providers and users in Australia”.

Later, Pavey sought to be more placatory to the industry, noting in an ABC News video showing part of her statement that safety around trucks is a community responsibility.

Pavey says it “is important that we all work together on this as a community. It is a very difficult job driving a truck and we would be lost in our goods and our services and transporting everything to where it needs to be. (sic) Trucks do a great job. But we all must recognise, too, that in 65 per cent of vehicular accident involving heavy vehicles, it is not the trucks fault.

“We must, as a community and as drivers, understand that there are a lot of blind spots for a truck.

“We must drive beside a truck, behind a truck, or near a truck, with a view that they can’t see us.

“And, if we all did that, the results would be a lot better.”

However, that effort may fall foul of accepted statistics that the fault rate mentioned is around 93 per cent.

ATN originally quoted media report of Melinda Pavey saying, “trucks on our roads but we need operators who are doing the right thing…and at this point, I don’t see that that is the majority of heavy vehicle providers and users in Australia”. It has since been pointe out tht this was not the complete statement. ATN is pleased to replace it with a corrected quote to better reflect the Minister’s comments.

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