Statistics condemn truck drivers
By EMMA CORNFORD
ONE in four truck drivers in NSW was involved in an accident last year, according to a survey of Transport Workers' Union members.
In the wake of the State statistics, Clarence trucking firms yesterday defended their record on the road.
Clarence Valley trucking company representatives, including operations manager of Blanchard's Haulage Michael Blanchard, said the number of incidents involving local drivers was not as high.
"Our company would have nowhere near that ... but the facts that are there are quite scary," he said.
"But from a local point of view, we are well below that and we've adopted systems to make (the industry) safer."
Other Clarence drivers, however, said that a one-in-four chance of a crash each year sounded 'about right'.
Drivers came close to an accident almost every night.
The survey has led to calls from union officials for the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws and more regulations for the transport industry.
Mr Blanchard, however, said the industry was already highly regulated.
"We already have a lot of regulations, but unless you can enforce those laws, what's the point in having them?
"That's the problem."
He said that holding clients of transport companies responsible for manslaughter for a fatal accident due to unsafe trucking procedures would be acceptable only in 'extreme cases'.
New government regulations to be introduced in March will enforce the use of safe trip plans.
Mr Blanchard said his company and others in the Clarence Valley trucking industry already had the system in place.
"We introduced those before Christmas ... and the reaction from drivers so far has been positive.
"It gives them a game plan and a roster about when they should leave and allows them breaks."
The system also integrates satellite tracking.
At a cost of between $32,000 and $35,000 a year, it does not come cheap, but Mr Blanchard said it was a worthwhile expense.
"Anything that works in terms of safety has got to be a good thing," Mr Blanchard said.