Truck accident deaths up 50 per centTRUCK accidents killed 50 per cent more people on Victorian roads last year than the year before and the federal government has vowed to combat truck drivers’ dangerous working conditions, which have been linked to drug-taking and fatigue. Statistics released yesterday show that crashes involving heavy vehicles led to 60 deaths in Victoria in 2010, a 50 per cent increase from the 40 in 2009. Truck-related deaths jumped to 21 per cent of the state’s total road toll, which had dropped to a record low of 287. Deputy Commissioner for road policing Kieran Walshe said he had requested an analysis of all collisions involving heavy vehicles last year that had injured or killed people, to determine why each of those crashes had happened and how they could have been prevented. Of the 60 people killed by heavy vehicle collisions last year, 11 were truck drivers, 20 were car drivers, 14 were passengers, five were motorcyclists, five pedestrians and five were cyclists. Twenty-seven of the crashes were in metropolitan Melbourne. Advertisement Professor Bill Russell, deputy director of Melbourne University’s Australasian Centre for the Governance and Management of Urban Transport, said Australians would be safer if more freight was moved by rail. But instead, the number of trucks on the roads was increasing rapidly while rail’s share of cargo was decreasing. His research showed that moving 10 per cent more freight by rail would save 25 lives in Australia every year, and 100 serious injuries such as quadriplegia or brain damage. ”It is really important that we try to transfer many categories of heavy freight to rail and we need stronger policies to do that,” he said. Workplace relations parliamentary secretary Jacinta Collins said truck drivers’ low pay rates were in the government’s sights, because they had been linked to increased fatigue, drug-taking and speeding. When paid less, drivers had an economic incentive to work longer and drive further, faster. She said Victoria was the only state to have implemented all road safety reforms recommended by the National Transport Commission in 2008 but the new statistics were concerning. The government was considering three options: whether to create an independent specialist tribunal, or a new panel within Fair Work Australia, or change the existing Fair Work system to safeguard drivers’ conditions. ”We need to look at a national solution for dealing with the problem. It’s a priority,” Ms Collins said. A government discussion paper, for which submissions could be made until February 11, was examining how to make roads safer in general, but she said most of the submissions had focused on how to improve truck drivers’ behaviour. About 330 people are killed in Australia each year because of heavy vehicle accidents. The chairman of the Australian Trucking Association, David Simon, said that many crashes involving trucks were not the fault of the truck drivers. He said the industry was investing in safety and its record was improving overall.
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