Here's what could be done to reduce deadly truck crashes

Here's what could be done to reduce deadly truck crashes

Here's what could be done to reduce deadly truck crashes

Updated 5 February 2018, 22:55 AEDT

Following a deadly summer on the roads, transport administrators, industry insiders and truckies have been under pressure to come up with ideas to make the roads safer.

While the number of fatal incidents involving trucks has actually fallen over the past decade, the spike in New South Wales has everyone concerned.

So what are some ideas to improve the road toll and make the roads safer for everyone?

The truckie

In his 40 years as a truck driver, Rod Hannifey has logged close to 6 million kilometres around Australia.

During that time he's had several near-misses, and he said he's still haunted by one particularly close call where a driver pulled out in front of him.

"I'll never know till the day I die how I didn't run into him and didn't tip the truck over," he told 7.30.

"It would have killed him and his wife. With 55,000 litres of petrol on [board], I don't like to think what would have happened."

Mr Hannifey believes the best way to reduce the number of crashes involving trucks is to educate other drivers to be more aware around trucks.

"People need to look around them at the trucks and recognise the vast majority of us do it properly," Mr Hannifey said.

"We travel billions of kilometres a year delivering millions of tons of freight safely. We are not perfect, we make mistakes, we don't intend to do that.

"But we need to teach people to share the road with trucks."

Authorities admit that most of the accidents involving trucks are the fault of the other driver.

"In the majority of accidents involving a truck, it's actually the other driver who is at fault," Roger Weeks from the NSW Roads and Maritime Services told 7.30.

Mr Hannifey said poor-quality highways and a lack of rest areas makes it harder for truckies to manage their fatigue.

"Not one of our major highways complies with the minimum number of rest areas," he said.

He decided to take matters into his own hands by putting reflectors on roadside posts to mark places where it's safe for trucks to pull over for a break.

He said it's a temporary fix, but one which has helped exhausted drivers rest when they need it.

"I've had drivers say to me that I saved their life," Mr Hannifey told 7.30.

The industry leader

The head of Australia's largest transport company, Toll Group, says there needs to be an urgent harmonisation of the laws administering heavy vehicles.

Managing director Michael Byrne points to inconsistencies in different states with speed limits, fatigue laws and blood alcohol levels.

He thinks the law in some states allows drivers to spend far too long behind the wheel.

"In Western Australia you can make a man or a woman drive for 17 hours a day. In the Northern Territory you can make a man or a woman drive for 18 hours a day," Mr Byrne told 7.30.

"You can't make people sit in the office and do that."

Mr Byrne has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to plead for consistent road rules across the country, and he wants a debate about whether the standard driving hours in other states, which for most drivers is 12 hours at the wheel, is safe.

"In a lot of other countries, that's too much," he told 7.30.

The expert

Transport safety expert Professor Ann Williamson believes that although road fatalities are going down, the toll is still far too high.

"Every year we're killing around about 200 people in fatalities in trucking crashes," she said.

"About 1,700 people end up hospitalised due to heavy vehicle crashes, and that's way too many."

Professor Williamson believes that truck drivers are working too long and for too little pay.

"Any company, any driver who's working to those hours will be tired and will be at higher risk on the road," she said.

She said if truck drivers were better paid, they would spend fewer hours on the road.

"The evidence is really quite strong that there is a link between how you pay people and how they behave in the workplace," Professor Williamson told 7.30.

"It probably will mean that freight is going to cost us a little bit more, but I think it's wrong that the transport industry, and long-distance truck drivers in particular are really bearing the brunt."

However, truckies fear that reduced hours would result in less pay and more time away from home.

"We'd all love to work eight hours and go home, but if I only work eight hours instead of 12 today, in three days' time I'm another day behind," driver Mr Hannifey said.

"What do I do for the other 16 hours sitting in a truck with no toilets and no shade and no food and nothing else?"