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DICE WITH DEATH: Truck-related fatalities up

Des Bailey has been a truck driver for 20 years with Blanchards Haulage.
Des Bailey has been a truck driver for 20 years with Blanchards Haulage. Caitlan Charles

EVERY week there are reports of crashes on our roads, and often, on the long stretches from Sydney to Brisbane, truck drivers are involved.

In the 12 months to September 2017, fatal crashes involving articulated trucks in NSW rose to 54, an 86 per cent rise from the same period in 2016 according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

This is the highest increase of deaths involving trucks since 2009, when there was a similar increase of 91.7% from the previous year.

With works being conducted to connect our major cities, including the Pacific Highway upgrade, there are more vehicles on the road, and more road works, which NSW Police said was contributing to the increase of truck-related crashes.

Blanchard's Haulage driver Des Bailey, who has spent the past 20 years driving the highways, considers himself one of the lucky truck drivers never to experience a crash first-hand.

"I know in the long run it's going to be good for everybody," Mr Bailey said of the prevalence of roadworks. "But the queue-up to wait at Harwood Bridge is very trying at times.

"While I'm pretty lucky with the freight that I carry and don't have too much drama with timeslots, anybody who has timeslots can be late when they get held up with the roadworks anywhere from Ballina to Port Macquarie.

"I know when they get held up in roadworks, they tend to take short cuts, car drivers especially. They pass in unbelievable places, that is the worst thing."

While Mr Bailey has never been involved in an accident himself, he knows other drivers who still wear the scars from their own horrific experiences, including a friend who had a car pull out in front of him at an intersection.

"That was a fatality, and that has really knocked him around," he said. "He is still not back on the road.

"I've got a few other mates out there who have been in accidents, but they are back behind the wheel pushing on.

"Some of them have even had a couple, and they are back out there, but it just depends on the person."

While they are out on the highway doing their job, they try not to think about the crashes and what that could mean.

"If we're sitting around having a beer, we might talk about it. On the radio you've got blokes who talk garbage all day," Mr Bailey said.

"Especially when you're held up at an accident, it's unbelievable some of the things people say over the radio, it's just not right.

"They don't have any compassion for what has just happened.

"I usually turn the radio down because it's just crap. They don't stop to think that some poor bugger isn't going home or he's been seriously hurt and is going to hospital. All it seems to be is 'I've got to get there and I don't care'."

Mr Bailey said the Coffs Harbour to Grafton section was good to drive on, with the majority of it now being dual carriageway.

But it's the Grafton to Woodburn section that causes the most issues, especially between Harwood and Woodburn.

"Going up through Tabbimobile and that, it's not too bad, but you've got to treat every road with respect," he said.

Mr Bailey admitted he was surprised by the huge increase of truck-related fatalities.

He felt management of fatigue by car and truck drivers could be one of the main reasons.

Topics:  editors picks fatalities trucks