Trucking industry committed to Safer Journeys

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ANOTHER ONE: The empty logging truck that crashed on Otaika Valley Road, Whangarei, last week, adding to a mounting accident record. PICTURE/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
ANOTHER ONE: The empty logging truck that crashed on Otaika Valley Road, Whangarei, last week, adding to a mounting accident record. PICTURE/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

The high level of interest in the Rollover Prevention Safer Journeys Programme shows a tangible commitment from the trucking industry to address the issue of truck rollover, according to Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley.

Northland's truck crash record continues to mount, with the latest incident involving an empty logging truck towing a trailer, that left Otaika Valley Road, Whangarei, on a right-hand bend in heavy fog last week, rolling and smashing into a power pole with sufficient force to split it in half.

The driver was taken to Whangarei Hospital with a cut to his head, and was released later that day. An initial police examination concluded that speed could have been a factor. The corner had an advisory speed limit of 55km/h.

It was the fifth logging truck crash in Northland since April 11, and only one of the vehicles, which crashed near the intersection of Waimate North and Okokako roads on April 29, did not roll.

There have been at least eight crashes involving logging trucks in the region so far this year.

Mr Shirley said the road transport industry takes its responsibility as users of the public roading network very seriously.

"There is no higher priority to our industry than the safety of our drivers and other road users, which is why the Road Transport Forum and our member associations are determined to do all we can to help prevent truck rollover," he said.

"It is no secret that New Zealand has a high number of rollovers compared with other OECD countries. Our topography and difficult driving conditions are major contributing factors, yet cannot be used as an excuse.

"Our objective in putting together the Rollover Prevention Safer Journeys Programme is to ensure our drivers are armed with the best possible information on the range of factors affecting heavy vehicle stability and handling performance. It is imperative that we educate drivers and freight loaders on how to mitigate the factors that can cause a truck to roll."

Twenty-eight seminars had been planned for venues around the country, and Mr Shirley expected interest from the industry to expand the series further.

"The uptake of the programme is really encouraging. The first two seminars were attended by more than 120 people, and interest is only increasing as the series progresses," he added.

The programme was a joint initiative between the Road Transport Forum and NZTA.

"The Forum is extremely grateful for the support we have received from NZTA, and especially vehicle safety specialist Jeff Fleury for presenting these outstanding seminars," he said.

"The recent spate of truck rollovers, especially in Northland, shows just how timely this programme is, and I'd strongly encourage all transport operators, drivers and loaders to attend at least one of the upcoming seminars."

Two seminars are scheduled in Whangarei, on May 26 and 27.

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According to Northland MP Winston Peters (Too many log truck accidents, April 26) the spate of crashes in Northland has highlighted the need for the government to adopt a balanced transport policy that included rail, provided specialist training for drivers and a much greater allocation of funding to improve 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 were available in Northland, but specialist training for driving big logging rigs was urgently needed.

"What is required from the government is a real understanding of Northland's needs," he added.

"Why didn't Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce make provision for this training in his Northland Regional Action Plan earlier this year? It's practical measures like this that will get and keep Northlanders in jobs, and that's what Northland families want.

"The shortage of skilled drivers is made worse by the horrendous state of many of the roads on which the trucks travel. 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."

- Northland Age

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