Spate of truck crashes alarms Herbert locals

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A spate of commercial truck crashes between Maheno and Herbert is ringing alarm bells for residents.

Over the past six months there have been three truck crashes on State Highway 1 between Maheno and Herbert, two of which occurred at the bend between Burgess and MacLean Rds. The third involved a truck-and-trailer unit rolling at Maheno’s southern entrance.

John Adams and Janet O’Sullivan’s home in Burgess Rd looks over the corner where the most recent crashes occurred. They have lived there for eight years, and said they had never witnessed one crash at the corner until this year.

Mr Adams described the first crash as bizarre and the second “quite scary”.

“The extraordinary thing is that none of the them have taken out any other vehicles – but obviously the potential is there for a horrific accident,” he said.

“I’m very concerned, because it’s not a challenging piece of road, it’s a very safe benign piece of road. If they’ve failed to take a bend like that, it means any motorist sharing a road anywhere in New Zealand with heavy trucks is at risk.”

If trucks could crash on that section of road, it indicated similar accidents must be happening throughout the country, Mr Adams said.

“We hear a lot about the danger tourists present on our roads, but this would suggest trucks are posing a far bigger threat.”

Reducing the road’s speed limit from 100kmh could not be justified as it was a “safe tame piece of road”. It was not a speed issue, it was an attention issue, he said.

Mr Adams was worried truck drivers were falling asleep at the wheel or texting while driving.

Legally, truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after working for five and a-half hours. Drivers can work a maximum of 13 hours a day, but after accumulating 70 hours they are required to take a break of at least 24 hours.

Road Transport Association New Zealand chief operating officer Simon Carson did not have any information on the crashes that occurred at the corner between Burgess and MacLean Rds, but said professional truck drivers were expected to drive to both road and weather conditions. Vehicle “telematics and in cab” technology enabled a high level of visibility into how vehicles and drivers were performing.

“However, trucks are also driven by humans and, time to time, mistakes do happen,” Mr Carson said.

“Road Transport Association, along with the industry governing body Road Transport Forum, is in complete support for road safety.”

The association provided training to operators on roll over prevention, vehicles stability and dynamics, road safety, fatigue and wellbeing.

According to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency statistics, over the past 10 years there have been 24 crashes, three of them fatal, on State Highway 1 between Maheno and Herbert. There were also 16 injuries ranging from minor to serious.

Sergeant Blair Wilkinson, of Oamaru Police, said although the crashes were in the same location, the factors leading to them varied from driver inattention to livestock on the road. There had also been crashes involving livestock between Oamaru and Maheno recently.

Managing driver fatigue was an ongoing problem and was not related to a select piece of road.

“It’s just people extending themselves, often driving for lengthy periods with work or travelling, overly optimistic around how far they can go in a single day,” Sgt Wilkinson said.

He reminded drivers to ensure they were well rested before getting behind the wheel of any vehicle.