Tasmanian Times

Environment

TRANSPORT SAFETY ISSUES EXPOSED BY LOG TRUCK BLITZ

www.tas.greens.org.au
The Tasmanian Greens today accused Bartlett Government of failing to fund an appropriate number of transport inspectors in Tasmania, leading to a number of serious safety issues for Tasmanian road users, especially log trucks and other traffic that shares roads with log trucks.

Greens Forests spokesperson Kim Booth MP said that during September, Workplace Standards Tasmania teamed up with transport inspectors from the Department of Infrastructure and conducted a “log truck blitz” at Triabunna during which random safety checks on log trucks found problems with every vehicle checked, including serious safety concerns such as:

· Worn straps and defective chains being used to secure logs;

· Logs piled too high increasing rollover risk;

· Cracks in the metal stanchions that hold the logs in place;

· Insecure safety latches on woodchip bins; and,

· Brakes not working properly. [1]

Mr Booth also said that the inspectors themselves are well aware of the risks that these log truck safety breaches are causing, with one of them stating that, “[a]ll these breaches make the trucks potentially unsafe, not only for the drivers, but for the public who share the road with them.” [2]

“This is a potentially fatal safety issue for all road users, and it is an indictment on the level of commitment that the Bartlett Government has towards road safety,” said Mr Booth.

“It is obvious that something is very wrong with the regulation of heavy vehicle safety when every single log truck checked during a random blitz is identified as having safety defects, and when the inspectors involved are openly discussing risks being imposed on the wider public who also use our roads.”

“The fact that Workplace Standards inspectors are needed to identify log truck defects very clearly shows that there are not enough transport inspectors in the Department of Infrastructure to ensure the proper regulation of heavy vehicles on our roads.”

“The government must commit to hiring more transport inspectors to correct the obvious failure to properly regulate heavy vehicle safety on our roads.”

“The Labor Government has reduced the number of transport inspectors to a level where heavy vehicle safety checks or even the weighing of vehicles are now rare occurrences. Their lack of commitment towards improving road safety in Tasmania has never been more obvious than it is in this case,” said Mr Booth.
Reference (and attached):

[1] & [2] [“Log truck blitz at Triabunna,” Workplace Issues September 2009, Workplace Safety Tasmania, p15,
http://www.wst.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/
pdf_file/0010/128674/WPI_55_Sept_09.pdf
Kim Booth MP Greens Forests Spokesperson

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Steve

    January 1, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    10; Scott, curious to know where the number ten comes from?
    I know of at least one definite and another possible in the last few weeks. The definite is because I know it from the trucks owner (not happy!) and the possible is because I drove past an upturned semi which looked awfully like a log truck but I didn’t get a good enough look to be sure.

  2. Scott

    December 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    For those who missed it, we’ve had a tenth log truck crash this year. It’s a good example of how the media play these events down. Blink and you miss it!

    The smash was reported on ABC Local Radio, in their news bulletin at 10.00am on 23/12/2009.

    The Mercury slipped a brief mention of it into a news article on their web site covering an unrelated fatal smash near Richmond:

    http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2009/12/23/117431_road-toll.html

    “Earlier today a hire car was severely damaged after a collision with a log truck on the Lyell Highway at Rosegarland, north-west of Hobart.”

  3. Garry Stannus

    November 26, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    (#8)
    Hi Salamander, where does the 25% figure come from? Very interested.

  4. salamander

    November 26, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I am shocked to find that log trucks are involved in 25% of accidents in Tasmania – which suggests these incidents are under-reported.

    Government is failing in it’s duty of care. How can we bring them to account?

  5. Steve

    November 26, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    When I first came to Tassie I followed a log truck up the East Tamar. I used to be a professional driver and I was so appalled by how this truck was travelling that I rang the number on the back.
    It was obvious to me that the truck was either over loaded or the driver was really tired. I gave them the number of the truck and explained what I had seen.
    Three months later I got a return call, I think from someone at Gunns. They hadn’t been able to identify the truck as I’d only given them the trailer number (?) but could I give information on the problem. I explained that the reason they only got the trailer number was that I wasn’t game to overtake as the trailer was wandering all over the road and for a standard semi to do that something had to be wrong.
    The caller was quite interested to know if the truck was speeding but when I said I didn’t think so, interest rapidly vanished. Basically I got told that the roads not that wide (East Tamar Highway)and it’s not unusual for trucks to cross the lines etc, etc. I tried to explain that I was an ex-driver who used to drive on single lane bitumen in WA. Also that most log trucks on the East Tamar Highway seem to manage, even the B-doubles. Wasn’t interested; “another winging mainlander who doesn’t understand how we do things here”.
    Actually quite an accurate description because I’ve seen far worse since. Do I bother ringing. Nope. I understand now!

  6. Scott

    November 25, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Mary (4). I think you’ve missed the point re the milk truck.

    Until this week, when was the last time that you heard of a milk truck crashing? How about a petrol tanker, a bus, a cattle truck? It’s highly unusual to have any of these large vehicles crash.

    We all share the road with many heavy vehicles. The drivers have a difficult, stressful job to perform and generally do it well. Log trucks represent only a fraction of those vehicles, yet we’ve had nine crashes involving log trucks reported in the media so far this year (comment 1 mentioning eight crashes was written three weeks ago).

    I agree that “the amount of media attention to log-truck incidents is disproportionate”, however I feel the incidents involving these vehicles are actually under reported in the media, since they are no longer considered newsworthy. On more than one occasion, ABC Local Radio have reported a log truck crash, but then the incident hasn’t made the papers or the television news and I’ve been unable to find out any more about it. These are not included in my figure of nine crashes so far this year.

    It could be argued that log trucks have more accidents because they are driven on gravel forestry roads, but most of the crashes (the ones that are reported by the media anyway) occur on sealed roads and a high number are single vehicle accidents (usually a roll-over).

  7. Eagle eye

    November 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    The short answer Mary, is when log truck driving standards are worthy of less attention, that is what they will get.

    Several years ago, after some idiot piloting a log truck came within inches of doing serious damage to my partner and child I started asking people in my area about their experiences with trucks on local roads. Interestingly, while I heard numerous horror stories about near misses and even accidents with log trucks, and one complaint about a fuel tanker, not one person mentioned milk tankers. At the time there were several more dairys operating and tankers were a bigger issue than they are today.
    I put it down to the attitude displayed by those leading the industry toward those whose paths they cross. I would characterise the forest harvesting attitude as rather rude and dismisive towards those who object to any aspect of their operations, and that attitude permeates the whole organisation, which includes the truck drivers.
    It could also have something to do with the fact that far more dairy farmers live on the same roads the tankers use. The same can not be said for the owners of the majority of timber coupes.
    As for the poor soul who died yesterday, it may be appropiate to comment when more is known, maybe not.

  8. mary

    November 25, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    #2 so is it ok for people to be driving beat-up unsafe, unroadworthy heaps, provided you are on the ‘breadline’?

    I think you will find that the amount of media attention to log-truck incidents is disproportionate. I note not a wimper on here regarding the poor fellow killed driving a milk truck. I agree there are poor log truck drivers, as there are also poor other truck drivers and much greater numbers of poor car drivers (some even in beat-up heaps).

  9. Pete Godfrey

    November 25, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Isn’t it time to fix the rail system and force Gunns to have all their long haul woodchip logs put on trains.
    I have many photographs of log trucks in the Golden Valley area driving on the wrong side of the road, fully laden weaving all over the road.
    One of the most dangerous looking things (apart from trucks on the right side of double lines on hairpin bends) are those wobble dog trailers. They weave all over the road, waggling behind the truck and God help anyone who is going the other way.
    Speed limiters also need to be fitted to log trucks , I would suggest that anything over 80 klm is very dangerous on the roads we have.
    Maybe there should be a government set rate for carting freight. That way the drivers would not have to start driving at 3 am in the morning and still be going at 11 pm.

  10. Garry Stannus

    November 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks Kim, and Scott (#1)
    In my daily travels to Lilydale and back from Launceston: oh boy, I see things which would turn the true believer into a cynic.

    I see the people of Rocherlea subject to random pullovers in the mornings, when they are trying to get to/across town for work and given the once-over. There’s only one way into town from there. They are like lambs to the slaughter. I have seen overladen log trucks coming down that same road, allowed through without a second glance, while those on the breadline with their beat-up heaps are mercilessly pulled over.

    Not the job of the police to check on log-truck safety? Job of the transport boys?

    I have watched and recorded the transport boys just south of the Grammar rowing shed, pulling over this and that sort of truck, giving it the full works … oh yeh but I have yet to see them going over a log truck, I have yet to see them force a single log truck vehicle travelling through Launceston down to Georgetown UNLOAD its unsafe cargo.

    These monsters pass through our town as if they have carte blanche…keys to the gates of the city…can do no wrong…nothing can stop me because “I’m the Duke of Earl”. Oh gees, to meet one down near Prossers (Forest) Road, coming round that bend on my side of the road, to meet one at Carrick, fishtailing off an overpass, to watch a load rocking from side to side, till on a left-hand bend I’ve seen the rear left wheel lift.

    This is why we call this government corrupt. We have no direct evidence of brown paper bags full of money. Yet we see in many facets of our lives, that there are two sets of rules – one for the so-called forestry industry, and another for the rest of us.

    Thanks Scott for your comments. Those who saw a photo of the rear of that rolled truck up on the Tiers, will connect with Scott’s point about the obscured number plates. Thanks Kim for your continued concern for safety on the roads, e.g. ‘roll-over’ points.

    Lastly, the majority of log trucks that I see on the roads, are being driven sensibly, with skill, with goodwill, by their drivers. Good luck to you all and have a Happy Christmas.

  11. Scott

    November 3, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I remember this being covered by the ABC News back on the 25/9/09.

    I find it appalling that every log truck checked had safety issues, though I acknowledge some were quite minor (missing fire extinguisher, out of date first aid kit etc). I drive to work on a road that is used by log trucks and frequently see obvious vehicle defects and driver attitude problems. These include bald tyres, damaged and/or obscured rear number plates (a deliberate attempt to avoid prosecution for speeding?), poorly secured loads, tailgating and drivers talking on mobile phones while driving.

    The number of crashes involving log trucks seem way out of proportion to the number of these vehicles on the road. I’m aware of eight in the past year – and they are only the ones reported in the media. Unfortunately, these events seem so common that they are not considered “news”. It is by luck, rather than good governance that we haven’t yet had a collision between a log truck and school bus.

    The problem doesn’t entirely lie with the owners and drivers of the trucks, but with the exploitative nature of the local timber industry. The profit margins for truck operators seem very narrow and being able to load a few extra logs onto the truck, or make up enough time during a day’s work (drive faster, skip breaks etc) to deliver an extra load may be the difference between running at a loss or making a profit.

    Drivers shouldn’t have to compromise their safety and that of the public under any circumstances, yet it seems some have to bend the rules just to make a living.

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