Down Under Trucking: Rise in truck-death toll; engine tampering; pooper-scooper salvage; trucking standards vs human needs

In this week’s Down Under Trucking there’s continuing tragic news. Newly released statistics reveal that ongoing carnage on Australia’s roads is getting worse as more and truckers, passengers and other vehicle drivers die in trucking-related accidents.

Meanwhile, a meth-consuming and engine-tampering trucker was caught by the cops and given a heavy fine. A pooper-scooper operation has been set up to salvage a stink-truck off the coast of New South Wales. Meanwhile, the needs of drivers ought to be thought about when designing vehicles, a major trucking trade body says.

Australian heavy trucking becomes even more deadly

Death continues to stalk the Australian heavy freight vehicle industry as the national death toll in the heavy trucking industry continues not only unabated but, sadly, increases.

There were 183 deaths from 162 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks during the 12 months to the end of June 2019, according to “Fatal Heavy Vehicle Crashes Australia — Quarterly Bulletins,” published by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), part of the Australian government’s Department of Infrastructure.

Let’s take that out of the language of statistics for a moment. It means that, every two weeks or so, heavy freight truck-related crashes kill seven people.

There were 95 deaths from 85 crashes involving articulated trucks; 94 deaths from 82 crashes involving heavy rigid trucks; and six deaths and five crashes involving both a heavy rigid truck and an articulated truck.

BITRE reports that fatal crashes involving heavy trucks increased by 2.5% compared with the prior corresponding period (from 158 to 162). Fatal crashes involving heavy rigid trucks increased by 1.2% from 81 to 82 deadly crashes. Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks fell by 2.3% from 87 to 85 crashes on a like-for-like basis.

High, engine-tampering, trucker busted

Illegal engine control software? Check. Number plate shield? Check. Methamphetamine? Check. Fine and licence suspension? Check.

This set of very serious wrongdoing earned truck driver Steven Tong a $26,400 fine (US$17,944), nine demerit points on his licence and six months’ suspension of that licence by Goulburn Local Court last month. Tong, a driver for Zig Zag Express, was stopped by police at the Marulan North heavy vehicle safety station. He was found to have a laptop on board that allowed him to illegally increase the maximum speed of three different types of engines. When confronted, he ran off into the local bus. A search found Tong, hard drives containing the engine control software, a licence plate blocker and the meth.

Tong also was found to have consumed meth, after a sample was taken and tested positive.

Police threw the book at him. He was charged, convicted and fined as follows:

  • Stand/drive vehicle with speed measuring evasion article A$2,200 and nine demerits;
  • Tamper with speed limiter fitted to heavy vehicle A$11,000;
  • Use etc. heavy vehicle contravenes speed limiter standard A$6,600;
  • Fail to comply with direction not to interfere with vehicle/load A$6,600.

“This should serve as a warning to other heavy vehicle operators that it is not a matter of if but when you are caught if you engage in speed limiter tampering and drug driving,” said Transport for NSW Director of Compliance Roger Weeks.

Pooper-scooper set up to salvage sunken stink-truck

Heavy lift equipment has arrived at the site of a sunken commercial-barge and truck rig ready to begin salvage. The truck’s cargo is particularly noxious — it’s about 2,642 gallons of sewage. Yuck.

There are big bucks in the brown stuff though, if you’ve got a taste for making money that way. Sewage and drainage services create revenues of about A$10.1 billion a year, according to consultants IBISWorld.

Anyway, back to the sunken stink-truck.

Transport for NSW Acting Executive Director Maritime Mark Hutchings said, “The focus now is on finalising the salvage plans to ensure all appropriate measures are in place to safely remove the barge and truck from the water — while remaining ready to respond to any further contamination during the retrieval. We expect the salvage operation to commence later in the week and may take two days to complete.

“Divers will be sent down … to take final measurements and get an appreciation of the task at hand to ensure there have been no changes to previous underwater conditions. Weather and tidal conditions will factor heavily into the plan before an exact time can be locked in for the delicate salvage operation.”

Vehicle standards must meet the needs of drivers, says trade body

NatRoad, a trade body for Australia’s 45,000-strong trucking company industry, has emphasised to Australia’s main road transport advisor that vehicle standards must meet the needs of the human beings who drive trucks and cars.

The National Transport Commission is consulting with industry and other interested parties about heavy freight vehicles, the Heavy Vehicle National Law and safety.

NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said, “We have emphasised that vehicle standards must reflect current market conditions, up-to-date safety measures and be accessible and transparent. These principles should be translated into how technical standards for heavy vehicles are developed. That way they will be more supportive of driver and operator needs. Rather than focusing on these specific criteria, the current law is deficient because compliance is centred on prescriptive, offence-based HVNL requirements. Meeting these requirements does not necessarily equate with being safe.”

NatRoad urged that there should be a change in width and length to enable a larger sleeping berth.

“Driver comfort with appropriate rest should be given a priority in the design requirements of heavy vehicles,” Warren urged.

The trade body also urged a cull of what it described as “prescriptive, pedantic” offences.

One Comment

  1. These are terrible statistics. The thought of accidents is scary enough. The trucking industry definitely has its risks, but when other drivers cause a driver problems before they even get on the road, that’s a real issue. Trucking is the backbone of the shipping industry. It should be a noble profession, in a manner of speaking. Not underhanded.