Stop road deaths with national truck rules, Toll tells PM

Trucking giant Toll Group has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to overhaul the industry with national safety rules to stop road deaths.

The company has outlined a six-point plan in a letter to Mr Turnbull, sent the same week the n Trucking Association argued for a new safety commission.

” has a dire road safety problem,” Toll managing director Michael Byrne wrote. “It is time for a genuinely national approach to heavy vehicle regulation.”

More than 1100 people died in crashes involving trucks in a five-year period up to last September. The number of deaths involving articulated trucks in NSW soared 86 per cent last year, offsetting falls in most other states and territories to produce an 11 per cent rise across the country.

The overall number of deaths related to heavy vehicles fell 1.8 per cent in the past year.

On Monday alone, at least two people died in crashes involving trucks on NSW roads. Two male drivers in their 50s were killed when a tipper truck and a cattle truck collided near Grafton on Monday afternoon.

In a separate crash, one person remained unaccounted for after a fiery collision on the M1 at Cooranbong, south-west of Newcastle. Two trucks, including an oil tanker, collided and one caught fire, sparking a bushfire and closing the motorway for hours.

Mr Byrne said n trucks needed mandatory tracking devices to monitor drivers’ speed, fatigue and load limits and that the government should subsidise more modern, safer fleets.

Many of the proposals from the country’s largest transport and logistical company focused on the need for uniform rules.

Maximum speed limits, blood-alcohol limits and shift lengths vary across states and territories, as does the definition of “heavy vehicle”.

Mr Byrne said a national licensing system would stop drivers who were disqualified in one part of from continuing work in another.

Neither Western nor the Northern Territory has signed up to join the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, although data shows death figures in the west and the territory have remained relatively stable.

The Toll letter also suggested many of the problems with truck safety were caused by other vehicles.

Research from National Transport Insurance found in 93 per cent of deaths involving trucks, light vehicle drivers were to blame, underscoring the need for more education of car drivers.

A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce said the road toll over December had been devastating but noted the number of fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles had declined 17 per cent over the past decade.

The spokeswoman said a number of Toll’s proposals had merit and would be considered by the government.

“Even though there is no general consensus in the industry on some of the proposed initiatives, we will continue to work with industry and stakeholders to improve heavy vehicle road safety,” she said.

“Almost $4 million a year has been allocated to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to progress a package of practical initiatives.” These included safety campaigns and new infrastructure.

Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, said it supported a number of Toll’s proposals.

Mr Sheldon said the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator “has failed to impose national rules and does not tackle the root causes of risky behaviour in transport which is behind many of the crashes on our roads”.

Last week, the n Trucking Association asked the government to spend an extra $12 million on truck safety and establish a National Road Safety Commission.

It also called for investigations into truck-related deaths to be investigated by the n Transport Safety Bureau, rather than in sometimes lengthy inquests by state coroners.