TWU: Crash not isolated incident
MOUNT Ousley is the only way in and out of Wollongong and Port Kembla for heavy vehicles.
It is also one of the most difficult - and therefore potentially dangerous - descents in Australia, especially if you've never done it before, or you're not totally familiar with the truck you're driving, or if the truck you are driving isn't well maintained.
The morning of November5, a truck driven by a 21-year-old international student ploughed across the Princes Highway, right through the roundabout at the bottom of Mount Ousley Rd.
It went across the carpark of McDonald's Fairy Meadow and didn't stop until it hit an apartment block, wedging an SUV - and the driver inside it - against the building. The cars it crashed through were knocked out of the way "like toys”, according to one witness description.
It's a miracle no one was killed. Three people went to hospital, including the driver.
After the accident, the TWU received information, confirmed by RMS and the NSW Police, that the truck he was driving was not even remotely well maintained.
A major defect notice was issued for the vehicle. Among other defects, the brakes were defective and every tyre was bald. But it wasn't even the only vehicle. The company, Sydney-based Hari Om, was issued a defect notice for every single truck in its fleet. You read that right. Every. Single. One.
For people outside the industry this seems shocking, but of course we know all too well that Hari Om is not alone in this, and this incident is not isolated.
Cowboy operators will always run rogue in our industry and continue to give it a bad name - not to mention continue to put lives at risk - unless the book is thrown at them.
But under current legislation, it's more like the book is lightly tossed in a company's direction, while the driver gets slammed under every page.
We need legislation that puts responsibility and crucial accountability at every level of the supply chain, all the way to the top - rather than just in the driver's seat.
Legislation that compels operators to stop cutting corners on safety - to maintain proper upkeep of vehicles, to hire experienced drivers and invest in driver training, and to comply with safety protocols like correct fatigue maintenance.
We need an independent regulator to make sure it's being done.
In 2012, after 20 years of campaigning, we got one. In 2016, the Turnbull government ripped it apart, and the number of truck fatalities on NSW roads jumped by 86per cent in one year alone.
This is the third accident at the foot of Mount Ousley Rd in 12 years, and the 50th in NSW in the past 12months.
No one died this time, but unless the system changes, one day someone will.