Five logging truck crashes in less than a month across Northland has been deemed "totally unacceptable and intolerable", and were predominantly the result of driver error, a transport industry leader says.
In the latest crash in heavy fog on Otaika Valley Rd about 5.30am yesterday, an empty logging truck carrying a trailer travelling towards Maungatapere crashed off a right-hand bend, rolled and smashed into a power pole, splitting it in half.
The driver was taken to Whangarei Hospital and treated for a cut to his head, and released yesterday afternoon.
An initial police examination revealed speed could have been a factor in the crash on the corner that has an advisory speed limit of 55km/h.
It was the fifth logging truck crash in Northland since April 11, and all - bar one that crashed near the intersection of Waimate North and Okokako Rds on April 29 - rolled.
There have been at least eight crashes involving logging trucks in the region so far this year and Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said transport operators had to front up to the very serious situation.
"There's been a phenomenal spike in crashes and as an industry we have to get on top of it. It would seem it's predominantly driver error, suggestive of excessive speed, which is totally unacceptable," Mr Shirley said.
"The public find it intolerable, and rightly so - there's no excuses. There's an obligation on road users to drive to the conditions and that includes professional truck drivers."
He said the issue needed to be addressed by the forestry industry as forestry owners were trying to squeeze the best freight rate with trucking firms.
"Freight rates need to be set at a level to ensure the job can be done safely and in a compliant manner. If there is pressure on transporters it creates an incentive to overload and speed, to try and get the daily trips in."
Stan Semenoff, of Stan Semenoff Transport Ltd, owned the truck and said he was yet to speak with the driver involved.
He said a company investigation would be launched.
Otaika Valley Rd resident Stephen Vincent was one of the first people on the scene yesterday and reassured the injured truck driver until emergency services arrived. He and his wife had just woken when there was a flickering of the kitchen lights and the power cut out.
"We heard a rumble, bang, thump and a shake. I knew it was a truck crash and rang 111," Mr Vincent said.
"The driver was still in the cab and I was reassuring him. There was a power line on the front of the truck."
The couple have lived on the road since 1997 and the series of sharp corners below their house have resulted in at least three logging truck crashes and numerous car crashes.
During that time, the number of logging trucks has increased.
While road improvements and lowering of speed may help reduce the number of accidents, ultimately it was drivers who had to take responsibility, Mr Vincent said.
Driving the road at least twice a day, he was always wary of logging trucks using the road.
Whangarei and Kaipara road safety education manager Gillian Archer said the rise in logging truck roll-overs was alarming.
"It must be of concern to the industry as they are giving it a bad name. The public need to be be aware of the risks and make sure they are alert to these trucks, especially on key roads like Otaika Valley."
In the wake of the latest crash, Grow Northland Rail co-campaign director Albert Barr said a public meeting at the Otaika Hall next Tuesday would consider the axing of the log train, and the high number of log truck crashes in the region.
"Until you make a real noise about the issue the authorities will drag their heels. We're going to use public opinion to get a result."
For more articles from this region, go to Northern Advocate