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DOWN UNDER TRUCKING: massive multi-vehicle truck crash leaves two dead

A fireball and car fire underway near Wollongong, Australia, June 2019. Source: a still taken from an amateur recording.

Two people were left dead after a multi-vehicle crash on a highway to the south of the Australian city of Sydney on Friday. Local police said that two trucks and six cars were involved. The crash closed all southbound lanes. Motorists were advised to avoid the area.

The driver and passenger in a Mitsubishi Pajero were trapped and died when their car caught fire. The truck driver, 47, was able to free himself from the truck before it caught on fire and he escaped uninjured. Nine people had to be treated on the scene by paramedics.

It is believed that a southbound Ford Territory and a Mack Truck with attached dog trailer collided. Because of that collision, four more vehicles crashed, one of which was an Isuzu rigid truck. It is further believed that an impact ruptured a car’s fuel tank and that led to a massive fireball and explosion.

A 65 year old male was arrested and charged with two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death and a count of negligent driving occasioning death. He was granted conditional bail and is required to appear the Wollongong Local Court late next month.

A truck driver in Lansdale, Western Australia was left fighting for his life after his truck slammed into an automotive dealership, late night Monday. The driver was crushed inside the cab. The cause of the crash is not yet known. The trucker was taken to the intensive care unit of the Royal Perth Hospital.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, a female pedestrian was fatally struck by a truck-trailer combination which was turning a corner. The woman later died in hospital. No further details are available.

According to the Australian federal Department of Infrastructure, during the 2018 calendar year there were 1,140 road deaths. During the 12 months to the end of March 2019 (the latest date for which figures are available), 163 people have died from 147 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks. 93 deaths involved articulated trucks. 77 deaths involved heavy rigid trucks and seven deaths involved both a heavy rigid truck and an articulated truck.


Just when you think a done deal is, well, a done deal, the local competition regulator comes along and stomps all over the paperwork.

Doing the stomping in this particular case is the domestic competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which is objecting to the proposed acquisition of vehicle retailer Automotive Holdings Group (ASX: AHG) by rival AP Eagers (ASX: APE). The two companies are the largest automotive retailers in Australia.

The ACCC said in a statement that it has “preliminary concerns” on the impact on competition between car retailers in certain parts of the state of the Australian state of New South Wales.

“A combined AP Eagers and AHG would operate 46 per cent of new car dealership sites in the Newcastle/Hunter Valley region, including those for the ten most popular brands, and runs 54 percent of the dealership sites selling those brands. In metropolitan Newcastle alone, the combined company would operate 77 percent of dealerships sites selling the ten most popular brands. We believe that local consumers generally don’t travel beyond the Newcastle/Hunter Valley to buy new cars and it is difficult to find out the final price for a car without visiting a dealership,” ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard said.

The competition watchdog can grant authorisation for a merger if a deal is “not likely to substantially lessen competition” or where the public benefits of a merger outweigh the detriment to the public.

AP Eagers acknowledged the ACCC’s views but said it believed that the merger will not substantially lessen competition.

“Even in the few geographic areas where the activities of the two groups overlap, including Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, it is AP Eagers’ view that there will continue to be choice and competition,” AP Eagers said.

Heavy vehicle roadworks underway around Australia

Upgrades to improve access for heavy vehicles are underway at Gracemere, near Rockhampton, in the Australian state of Queensland.

“These works will save businesses time and money, encourage growth and make the road safer for drivers,” said Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nationals’ Leader and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.

Among other things, the works will upgrade the load limit and general standard of the road so that heavy road trains can move through the area. The road upgrades are being jointly funded by the Australian Federal Government and Rockhampton Regional Council. 

Federal funding is supplied from the Australian Government’s Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, which is set up to specifically improve the productivity and safety outcomes of heavy vehicle operations around Australia.

Getting smarter about roads in Australia

Construction and installation work to transform Kwinana Freeway, Western Australia, into a “smart” road is now about 25 percent done, according to Alan Tudge, the Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure.

Works got underway about six months ago in a A$47 million (US$33 million) program to rearrange drains, communications infrastructure and the like, so that large overhead electronic signs can be installed. These signs will be used to manage the traffic in the lanes.

“Smart freeways are used successfully around the world to bust congestion, improve safety and get the most out of existing infrastructure. One of the biggest challenges for road authorities is maximising network efficiency so they are increasingly turning to technology-based solutions to manage traffic growth and improve travel times,” Minister Tudge said.

The Smart Freeway program is just one of a A$2.3 billion (US$1.62 billion) roadworks upgrade program in Western Australia.

Fundamental re-think of road access for heavy freight vehicles underway

Australia’s National Transport Commission has released an issues paper on how the nation can improve heavy vehicle access to the national road network and to analyse current issues with the law.

According to the National Transport Commission, the primary purpose of the Heavy Vehicle National Law is to “ensure a safe and efficient heavy vehicle journey. This is made up of a safe driver, a safe vehicle and a suitable route”.

The paper, “Easy access to suitable routes – June 2019” focuses on heavy vehicle access to a suitable route. The paper also explains that, in Australia, heavy freight vehicles are classified by type. Whether a heavy vehicle gets general or restricted access to the public road network will depend on the vehicle’s classification.

Australian governments deem it necessary to regulate access by heavy freight vehicles to reduce the risks to public safety, to manage the effects of larger vehicles on public infrastructure and to minimise any negative effects on public amenity associated with heavy vehicles.

The National Transport Commission is looking to find out why decisions to grant access to the public roads vary so significantly and whether a 28-day timeframe should be reduced. It is also examining the vehicle classification system and whether there should even be such a system. There are a variety of other topics under consideration, such as how a new heavy vehicle law could expand as-of-right access and whether the law should allow for an external review of access decisions.

Also under review is how the law should implement decision-making on heavy freight vehicle access, and whether it should specify process and roles. A key question is what the role should be for the transport operator.