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Friday, January 29, 2021

Truck drivers call for better safety ahead of Christmas

Hunter truck drivers are among thousands of Transport Workers’ Union members calling on the state government to improve the safety of rest areas in NSW.

The calls come after NSW detectives charged four men with the shooting of a truck driver at a rest area near Lithgow earlier this year.

At about 5am on Tuesday 29 September 2020, emergency services were called to the Great Western Highway at Mount Lambie following reports a truck driver had been shot.

Police were told that the truck driver, a 42-year-old Western Australian man, had been sleeping in the vehicle, when a group of unknown men forced entry to the cabin.

The men allegedly assaulted the truck driver, dragged him from the vehicle and shot him twice in his right upper thigh and right foot.

The group then stole personal items, including a large quantity of cash, from the truck, before fleeing the area in other vehicles.

Transport Workers’ Union NSW State Secretary Richard Olsen said the incident highlights the desperate need for improved conditions at regional truck stops.

“We welcome the news from the NSW Police Force that arrests have been made,” he said.

“It’s the kind of attack that has happened before and unfortunately may happen again.

Mr Olsen said the site of the shooting was frequented by heavy vehicle operators because the official rest area in that region was inadequate for truck drivers to park up and rest.

“The Mt Lambie Rest Area is typical of many rest areas across NSW and in other states,” he said.

“TWU inspection records show that it is not fit for purpose, there is no CCTV, no amenities and no security.

“Funding for road safety fails when it comes to Australia’s truck drivers, they will tell you that what they need are adequate, well planned and well-designed heavy vehicle rest areas along our freight routes so the job gets done and they get home safely at the end of their run.”

Truck drivers say they need members of the public to respect heavy vehicle parking needs, allowing enough space for a truck to manoeuvre safely.

December marks the start of school holiday travel, serving as a timely reminder for drivers to be aware of trucks on the region’s roads, Mr Olsen said.

“The TWU wants to remind those travelling on school holidays to focus on the drive particularly around heavy vehicles,” he said.

“Give them the space they need on the road to do their job.

“Truck drivers are professionals but their vehicles take time to pull up and take more time to manoeuvre through traffic.” 

“The TWU would also ask for respect for drivers in rest areas.

“Truck drivers need to have available the parking spaces for their big rigs when they need to rest. They need members of the public to respect signage put in place that says “heavy vehicles only”.

“These rest points are designed to enable a truck to manoeuvre safely back into traffic or park where their vehicle’s size is taken into account. 

“Truck drivers are required by the law to take rest breaks so that they are safer and not fatigued on the roads when they are driving in the lane next to your family car.”