Inattention, speed key to crashes

By Alexandra Newlove

3 comments
The driver of this logging truck was treated for minor injuries after this accident on State Highway 14 on Monday.
The driver of this logging truck was treated for minor injuries after this accident on State Highway 14 on Monday.

Inattention, speed and tricky topography cause most logging truck accidents says an industry expert, in the wake of three fully laden trucks rolling in Northland in one week.

No other vehicles were involved and none of the drivers was seriously injured in the three crashes between April 11 and 18, but Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said roll-over rates were "unacceptably high".

The forum this month initiated a Rollover Prevention Programme with seminars across the country, including one in Whangarei on May 26.

"This is to acknowledge that we have too many truck roll-overs. It's partly the topography, but the key factors are inattention and speed - that's what we have to focus on," Mr Shirley said.

"We go through the mechanics of what causes roll-overs ... We're getting trucking companies to send not only their drivers but loaders as well."

On April 11 a truck and trailer unit was travelling along Whangarei's Otaika Valley Rd towards State Highway 1 when the trailer went out of control and rolled on a bend about 2.30pm, spilling logs on to the roadside.

Police said speed was likely to have been a factor.

The next day another full truck crashed off Pouto Rd about 6.45am, though the logs remained fastened to the trailer.

Then, on Monday, a truck rolled on SH14 at Conn's Hill, blocking the westbound lane of the highway. The driver received minor injuries and was treated by ambulance staff.

Mr Shirley described Northland as "the biggest geological hodgepodge in the country ... There are some very problematic roads".

Despite the spate of crashes in Northland, most logging truck accidents - about 60 per cent - were when other drivers were at fault, Mr Shirley said.

Northland MP and NZ First leader Winston Peters said the spate of log truck accidents in Northland highlighted the need for the Government to have a balanced transport policy that included rail and to provide specialist training for local drivers and a much greater allocation of funding to improve the roads. "There's a chronic shortage of drivers and it is disappointing that Northland firms are bringing drivers in from Fiji and the Philippines," Mr Peters said. "Several training courses are available in Northland but specialist training for driving big logging rigs is urgently needed. What is required from the Government is a real understanding of Northland's needs."

A shortage of skilled drivers was made worse by the horrendous state of many of the roads on which the trucks travelled.

"Since 2009 the Government has cut funding for rural roads. They should provide rural roading support subsidies and ensure specialist log truck driver training is available in Northland," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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