Events in the NSW Courts this week are providing plenty of material for the general media’s ‘evil truckies driving monster trucks’ brigade. Watching the coverage in newspapers and on TV is like watching a car crash in slow motion, it gives you a sinking feeling and you know nothing good is going to come of it.
This all refers back to the horrific Mona Vale tanker crash in 2013, an incident which has still not been fully resolved and the repercussions of which continue to rattle around the industry. Two people died in a blazing inferno when a tanker lost control, before crashing into a telegraph pole, overturning and erupting into flames.
At the time, the road regulators had a field day, raiding Cootes yards all over Australia and announcing a high level of defects in the fleet. Many trucks and trailers were taken off the roads and the company had to jump through a number of RMS hoops to continue to operate.
The news reporting then was all about defective trucks causing mayhem on our roads. The general public were getting the same message every night in the news, dangerous and badly maintained trucks were surrounding them on the highways of Australia.
Two and a half years later, we now have the prospect of a trial in which the driver of the truck is the centre of attention. The evidence for the prosecution of the truck driver involved ignores all of the dirty laundry aired by the RMS on TV in 2013. Now, it is the driver who is to blame, he ignored a sign and did not go into a low enough gear at the top of the grade, and, as a result, lost control of the truck with fatal consequences.
The process has seen the road authorities attack the operator as dangerous and irresponsible. However, now it is the driver who is dangerous and irresponsible. Where do we stand now, whose fault is it?
We are supposed to have chain of responsibility legislation in place. This is supposed to look at an incident like this, go into the fine detail and allocate blame up and down the supply chain. Has there been a COR investigation? Will we ever get to see its conclusions? Wouldn’t the information covered help in a trial of the driver?
We seem to have various arms of the legal system going off at a tangent and blaming different parties in a public scatter gun approach to allocating blame. One, some or all of the parties involved may get blamed in the various reports/decisions involved.
The Mona Vale crash was an horrific and avoidable incident, but it looks like the legal processes which have followed will do little to improve real safety on the roads. Public perceptions of trucks and trucking will be negatively affected and all will be seen to be at fault, driver, operator and truckies in general.