NSW Transport Minister Melinda Pavey said the government will investigate ways to reduce the road toll after a horror 24 hours saw five people killed in truck-related accidents on the state’s roads.
However the Transport Workers Union is concerned the government will be quick to blame trucks and drivers for the deaths on Monday and Tuesday, and has said all issues need to be looked at.
Ms Pavey said she was “saddened and horrified” for families who lost people in the accidents, including one outside Dubbo on Tuesday when a B-double truck collided with four cars and another truck at a stop-go sign at roadworks.
She said an updated road safety plan would be released by the government in the coming weeks, while a parliamentary inquiry into heavy vehicle safety and the use of technology to improve safety, will produce a report in May.
“The government is taking action on this issue. We have more than doubled the roads budget since 2011 to improve critical infrastructure across the state’s road network,” Ms Pavey said.
“This is in addition to investing in other heavy vehicle infrastructure, such as vehicle monitoring systems.”
However Transport Workers’ Union of NSW state secretary Richard Olsen said the government had to look at all circumstances.
“The accident outside of Dubbo was a horrible situation and part of a dark day for the transport industry,” Mr Olsen said.
“We look forward to all of the investigations that come from this but we are concerned not much will change.
“Safety is about more than good roads and all facets need to be looked at to ensure all drivers are as safe as can be on the roads.”
The TWU took offence to comments by Ms Pavey in an ABC interview on Wednesday, where she talked about a system that could administer electric shocks to drivers if they looked away from the road for more than a few seconds.
He labelled the comments “baffling and deeply offensive to the families of those killed”.
“If the state government thinks they can start shocking drivers, we will pull every truck off the road we can.”
Mr Olsen said the federal government’s decision to to shut down the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in 2016 had played a part in the increasing presence of heavy vehicles in fatal crashes in 2017.
“You have drivers who are working 12-14 hour days, five days a week behind the wheel of a 70-tonne vehicle and safety is paramount,” he said.
“Drivers and companies are being pushed by the demands of customers, who are focused on pricing and forcing the industry to run on lower margins.”
On Wednesday, a joint traffic taskforce involving police and Roads and Maritime Services inspectors conducted a compliance operation targeting a transport company whose truck was involved in a fatal crash on the M1 on Monday.
It found one major defect, five minor defects, an unregistered trailer and two non-compliant engine modules.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy of the state's Traffic & Highway Patrol Command said non-compliance was not an option for heavy vehicle operators on NSW roads.
"To have a double fatality yesterday at Dubbo involving a heavy vehicle, and another three fatalities involving trucks the day before, calls for not only a focus by the Joint Traffic Taskforce, but also the industry."
"Those drivers, owners, operators, loaders, and customers right throughout the supply chain should all have a safety and compliance focus."
"Not only should those trucks and trailers be roadworthy, drivers should be fit and able to drive on our roads in accordance with fatigue management practices."