The Benalla Ensign has asked key players to provide their thoughts on the spate of Hume Fwy crashes.By Angela Townsend
There have been 12 truck crashes in our region since the start of September — many of these on Hume Fwy — and the Ensign has been asking questions to try to find what is behind these terrible statistics. Crash causes have been attributed to road conditions, fatigue, demanding trucking operators, speed and drug use. Read on to see what the main players have to say.
Leading Senior Constable Brendan Lynch of Benalla police said Operation Juggernaut — a plan to help prevent freeway crashes in our region — had been introduced about eight weeks ago.
‘‘We have upped our presence at night and are pulling over heavy vehicles for checks,’’ he said.
‘‘A lot of trucks aren’t doing anything illegal — historically, we get runs of accidents.’’
Ldg Sen Const Lynch said most of the crashes in our region occurred in the morning and afternoon.
He said patrols were coming up from Melbourne to assist with road policing numbers.
Victoria Police Media’s Senior Constable Adam West said police data showed the number of collisions on Hume Fwy was on trend with five-year figures.
‘‘That being said, there have been some notable incidents on the Hume in August and September which has focused public attention in this area,’’ Sen Const West said.
‘‘Police believe that fatigue, speed and drugs are contributors in a number of collisions statewide, and that the heavy vehicle industry is aware of these factors.
‘‘If all drivers pay more attention to the surrounds and responsibilities while driving, then we believe that the number of collisions would decrease.’’
Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill
Victoria’s top traffic cop Assistant Commissioner for Road Policing Robert Hill has urged drivers to be vigilant in the lead-up to Christmas.
And while he said targeting safety issues on the roads, including speed and fatigue, would be key in reducing the occurrence of accidents, he called on all motorists — not just truckies — to be alert.
Assistant Commissioner Hill paid a visit to Benalla last month to express his concerns to local traffic management officers over road safety. He said many crashes had involved local people showing complacency.
‘‘We have to think about how we can do things differently from a law enforcement perspective,’’ Mr Hill said.
He said it might be something like looking at extending the 0.00 blood alcohol limit to more than just learner, P-plate and bus drivers, given that 25 per cent of those killed on the roads are involved in accidents in which alcohol is a factor.
‘‘My concern is that people are just seeing these figures as the norm. Having been a police officer for 34 years, seeing the tragedies and events that have impacted on people, complacency across the community around road safety is a concern.’’
Australian Trucking Association
Australian Trucking Association chief executive Stuart St Clair said there were a whole series of things to take into consideration, including the coroner looking at the cause.
‘‘In some cases it’s fatigue — if that’s the case, the company needs to look at the management of drivers,’’ Mr St Clair said.
‘‘Being fit for work is important — it really depends on the weekend you’ve had.
‘‘It could be inappropriate speed for the conditions; rollovers in particular.’’
Mr St Clair said the condition of the roads played a big part.
‘‘Victorian roads are not that flash — they’re pretty ordinary.
‘‘We need to look at the facts. There’s about 4000 truck movements each day on the Hume.
‘‘We have to learn to share the roads safely with heavy vehicles — 80 per cent of truck accidents are attributed to other vehicles,’’ he said.
Mr St Clair said despite some media reports to the contrary, he did not believe there was any evidence to show drivers were under pressure to get from A to B.
‘‘We are conscious of ensuring safety is our primary concern.’’
RoadSafe North East’s Robert Allen spent 35 years with VicRoads and said the crashes had been happening regularly since the freeway opened in 1976.
Mr Allen said a study conducted in the early 1990s showed 53 run-offs in the stretch of road between Benalla and Wangaratta.
‘‘One of the recommendations was that trees planted along the freeway be small and not grow large enough to cause serious injury,’’ he said.
‘‘From the RoadSafe group’s point of view, we would support VicRoads installing wire rope or guard rail barriers.
‘‘We need rumble strips — all those sorts of things.
‘‘We can’t stop fatigue, but if you are going to run off the road, you’ve got to be protected from the things you can hit,’’ Mr Allen said.
‘‘Fatigue has got to be a key issue — but the cause is always hard to work out.’’
North Eastern Region acting director Nathan Mullane said investigations into the recent crashes involving trucks on Hume Fwy showed that the road surface was not a contributing factor.
‘‘VicRoads has a proactive maintenance schedule to address any road-related issues, which includes regular surveillance of road surface and road assets such as signs and line marking,’’ Mr Mullane said.
‘‘The freight industry is encouraged to participate in VicRoads’ Truck Rollover Prevention Program, which aims to assist heavy vehicle drivers and companies with reducing truck crashes and rollovers through awareness and education.’’
Mr Mullane said VicRoads had a three-year program to upgrade six rest areas on Hume Fwy between Wodonga and Benalla, which included additional parking bays and, in some cases, toilet amenities.
‘‘This will help to reduce fatigue-related heavy vehicle crashes, improve compliance with driving hour regulations, and reduce the number of heavy vehicles parking at informal areas and inappropriate locations along the freeway.’’
Member for Benalla
Member for Benalla Bill Sykes last week met with the Roads Minister Terry Mulder and Deputy Premier and Police and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan in Parliament to discuss the impact of crashes on Hume Fwy.
Dr Sykes said both ministers shared their concern about the impact of crashes on drivers, their families, emergency services personnel and the community in general.
‘‘I have requested an investigation of existing information on truck crashes on the Hume Fwy between Wangaratta and Avenel, in particular between Benalla and Violet Town, in response to the recent spate of truck accidents and fatalities on the freeway,’’ he said.
‘‘The investigation will examine data on vehicle crashes, crash numbers and risk factors as well as other factors such as vehicle type, the number of vehicles involved in an incident, time of day, weather conditions, drivers’ log books as well as the impact of wire cable barriers. ‘‘The Minister for Roads has indicated that he is available to meet with truck drivers to hear their views about risk factors, including their concerns about the National Fatigue Management Regulations.
‘‘I await the outcome of the investigation. In the meantime I encourage all road users to remain alert behind the wheel. Their lives and the lives of others are in their hands.’’
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