Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

What Freeway factors cause the crashes?

Minister for Roads Terry Mulder met with truckies at Violet Town last week.

ANGELA TOWNSEND November 28, 2012 4:40am

The Minister for Roads, Terry Mulder and Member for Benalla Bill Sykes attended a meeting Wednesday in Violet Town with truck drivers to hear first hand their views about risk factors following a number of truck incidents on the Hume Freeway this year

Roads Minister Terry Mulder and Member for Benalla Bill Sykes attended a meeting in Violet Town last Wednesday to hear truck drivers’ and operators’ views about risk factors following a number of truck incidents on Hume Fwy this year.

The meeting came as VicRoads spends $9million on 70 new parking spaces along the Hume for truck drivers.

Mr Mulder said it was initially a four-year plan to have new rest stops built, but most of the work would be completed by next year.

‘‘I have asked VicRoads to do some analysis to see whether that will be enough to cater for the growth we’re seeing, particularly with B-doubles.

‘‘It is one thing to have in place laws that say people need to rest, but we have to make sure as a government we provide them with the opportunities to do so.’’

Mr Mulder, who holds a heavy transport licence himself, said drivers were concerned that some of the laws weren’t working the way they expected they should, particularly in relation to fatigue.

One of the main issues is the lack of flexibility because of a one-size-fits-all approach to compulsory rest breaks.

‘‘The standard seven-hour break at the moment seems to be the issue that is causing most of them a lot of concern in terms of a template over each and every person, whether or not it fits in with people’s sleeping patterns.

‘‘We’re going to have to have a look at that again; it will be addressed as a national issue now because we have the national regulator being set up, but certainly even in the meetings I’ve had with other states fatigue is the number-one issue.’’

‘‘I think Aldi was raised as one of the companies that sets a good example of getting drivers in and out very quickly; other companies aren’t as good, and that is something we can take up with those companies,’’ Mr Mulder said.

‘‘We are prepared to take that up after today’s discussion. It certainly isn’t something that has been raised with me in the past — that is the good thing about having these sorts of meetings.’’

Dr Sykes said he was ‘‘very pleased the minister came and listened’’.

‘‘He ‘got it’ and is committed to act — I believe the truckies shared that view,’’ Dr Sykes said.

‘‘The key issues are the number of truck stops, including fast-tracking those on the drawing board.

‘‘We need to build flexibility into fatigue management rules, and the minister will look further into this.

‘‘As expected, truckies were very forthright in expressing themselves,’’ Dr Sykes said.

‘‘There were many decades of experience in that room.’’

Fourth-generation Violet Town farmer and former shire president Tom Maher has lived alongside Hume Hwy — later the Hume Fwy — his entire life and has witnessed the aftermath of many accidents during this time.

His grandfather, farmer Thomas Maher died on Christmas Day in 1937 when a car ran into his horse and cart while he was crossing the road to access his paddocks.

Mr Maher said nothing had changed and the government was not keeping up in maintaining the state of the freeway for the amount of traffic it now carried.

‘‘The traffic’s increasing and they haven’t done the road works — it’s 30 years old,’’ he said.

‘‘We need a full freeway built standard to the national grid — a four- or six-lane carriageway.

‘‘VicRoads planting trees along the freeway was a bloody mistake — they’re killing people.

‘‘You’d be horrified at the number of people I’ve seen killed.’’

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