FATAL CRASH: A file photograph of the accident scene at Alphadale where two men were killed last May.
FATAL CRASH: A file photograph of the accident scene at Alphadale where two men were killed last May.

Truckies hit back at coroner over B-doubles



THE trucking industry has hit back at Lismore Coroner Nick Reimer's statements that B-doubles were 'totally unsuited' for use on the Bruxner Highway.

The coroner was handing down his findings into the deaths of Casino truck driver John Evans and his Clunes passenger James McPherson at Alphadale last year.

Industry spokespeople say B-doubles are the safest way to carry goods by road.

Considering the Bangalow Road and the Casino-to-Woodburn road are closed to 25metre B-doubles, there is no option at the moment other than to take the Bruxner Highway through Alstonville when travelling between the Summerland Way and the Pacific Highway.

Australian Trucking Association CEO Stuart St Clair said B-doubles were proven to be safer in a crash than conventional articulated trucks.

In addition, extra safety features like anti-lock breaking, stability control around corners, air-bag suspension, and increased driver training contributed to a 22.5 per cent reduction in truck fatalities over the past five years.

"At the end of the day, however," he said, "it is up to the operator to drive to the conditions of the road."

In the case of the Bdouble that crashed at Alphadale driver John Evans was travelling at least 111km/h at the start of the crash, slowing to 81km/h by the time it started its uphill slide on its side, according to the coroner's report.

Regular Bruxner Highway driver Craig Standage, owner of CLS Transport at Byron Bay, says the road between Lismore and Alstonville has a speed limit of 80km/h which suits B-doubles.

Mr Standage said the Bruxner Highway was adequate for heavy vehicle traffic, provided operators kept in mind the nine roundabouts between Lismore and Ballina where a truck could block two lanes of traffic, drove to the road conditions, and avoided peak-hour traffic through Alstonville.

Meanwhile Bob Wilson, member of the Alstonville Bypass Action Group, says Coroner Reimer's comments accurately reflect the state of the Bruxner Highway.

"This road was never meant to take vehicles of this size," he said.

"With the growth of Ballina and Lismore, and the towns in between, we are getting a bigger volume of traffic on the Bruxner Highway every day."

Mr Wilson said a random traffic count revealed more than 17,000 vehicles passing through Main Street Alstonville in a 24hour period, more traffic than travels the Pacific Highway outside school holiday times.

Of that traffic 37 were B-doubles, 125 semitrailers, 484 rigid trucks, and 75 buses.

"You don't have to be a professor to appreciate what we are requiring," he said.

Mr Wilson said his action group was pushing for a bypass of Alstonville, which has been in planning since the early 1960s.

Before the last State Election then-Premier Bob Carr made the commitment to $24 million which was coupled with $12 million from Federal coffers to fund the bypass.

"The money was there, the money was on the table, then all of a sudden the money wasn't there," recalls Bob Wilson.

"We are frightened that if we push now for an overall upgrade of the highway that the Government will baulk and simply throw its hands up in the air," he said. "So we are content to push only for the bypass.

"But ultimately what we need is a dual carriageway between Lismore and Ballina."

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