Menu
Lifestyle

Plan to ‘electrocute’ drowsy truck drivers slammed

A rolled truck in Victoria. Picture: Alan Barber
A rolled truck in Victoria. Picture: Alan Barber

A DAY after two people died when a B-double slammed into a queue of vehicles, a NSW minister has come under fire from the truckies union for suggesting drivers could receive "electric shocks" to keep them alert.

But Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said union members have their "heads in the sand" if they aren't willing to discuss any new road safety technology.

On Tuesday, 19-year-old Hannah Ferguson and her boyfriend Reagan Skinner died on the Newell Highway, north of Dubbo in the NSW central west, when a truck ploughed into six vehicles waiting at roadworks.

Two people were trapped in the wreckage for four hours. The cause of the incident, which was described as so horrific that a construction worker collapsed in shock, has yet to be determined.

Hannah Ferguson, 19, was killed in a seven-vehicle pileup on the Newell Highway north of Dubbo when a truck ploughed into stationary vehicles. Picture: Facebook
Hannah Ferguson, 19, was killed in a seven-vehicle pileup on the Newell Highway north of Dubbo when a truck ploughed into stationary vehicles. Picture: Facebook

Talking to ABC radio on Wednesday morning, Ms Pavey said consideration should be given to in-cab devices that could recognise when a truck driver was losing concentration.

"The technology now is so advanced, a driver can be driving and get an electric shock if they look away from the windscreen for more than two seconds," she said.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said it was offensive and dangerous to propose "electrocuting drivers" and the minister was being "heartless, arrogant and completely incompetent".

Richard Olsen, NSW State Secretary of the TWU, said the overwhelming cause of the majority of truck-related accidents was not drivers, but "extreme and unfair working conditions" which the NSW Government was failing to address.

The scene of the fatal Newell Highway crash. Five people have died in three separate crashes involving trucks on NSW roads since Monday. Picture: Lily Cardis / NBN News
The scene of the fatal Newell Highway crash. Five people have died in three separate crashes involving trucks on NSW roads since Monday. Picture: Lily Cardis / NBN News

"Instead of blaming drivers, the minister must ensure that all levels of the supply chain take responsibility.

"This week alone, three truck drivers have died on the job, and the lives of two car drivers have also been lost," he said.

"To not only ignore the actual problems that are killing people on our roads, but to also propose electrocuting people driving heavy vehicles, is not only baffling and deeply offensive to the families of those killed, it is also unconscionably dangerous in its negligence."

The row comes as the NSW government has begun a crackdown on trucking companies flouting safety regulations following a spate of fatal crashes.

Talking to news.com.au, Ms Pavey said the TWU had "completely misconstrued" her comments.

"The TWU are talking about themselves on a day when it's about the community and road safety."

NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said any new technology that can help road safety should be considered. Picture: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito.
NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said any new technology that can help road safety should be considered. Picture: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito.

Several devices are on the market which claim to be able to rouse drowsy drivers and keep their eyes on the road.

These include cameras that monitor the driver's eyelids and how many times they look away from the road. If they are deemed to have lost concentration, an audible alert sounds in the cab and the driver's seat vibrates.

However, another system, which involves the driver wearing a bracelet, delivers a "gentle electric shock" should 16 indicators - such as heart beat - fall below a certain level.

"If a driver is a fluttering their eyes in tiredness or looking away, there are a variety of measures that can alert the driver," Ms Pavey said.

"That can be through an electronic jab through the seat that gives a slight buzz or a message and some of our best companies are using that technology and investing in their workforce and safety."

A device that delivers a
A device that delivers a "gentle electric shock" to drowsy drivers.

Despite insisting the union had taken her comments out of context, Ms Pavey nonetheless didn't rule out devices that administered a shock.

"If we can't have a decent honest conversation about the technology available, we have some issues. It's not the time to put our heads in the sand.

"No one [wants] drivers out there in unsafe conditions and we do have a challenging shortage of drivers in an industry full of good people," she said.

"It has been a struggle for some drivers to be monitored and but many have embraced it because they want to return to their families at the end of the day."

On Wednesday, Ms Pavey said the government would throw the book at trucking companies and drivers doing the wrong thing.

Five people have died in three separate crashes involving trucks on NSW roads since Monday. There has been 45 per cent increase in heavy vehicle accidents on the state's roads between 2016 and 2017.

Authorities began investigating a transport company involved in Monday's fiery crash on the M1 south of Newcastle that killed a tanker driver. Police and Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) officers were seen inspecting vehicles at Garousse's depot in Sydney's west.

"The operation is another warning to operators to be aware they will be targeted and they will be removed from our roads if they are found to be unsafe," said RMS Director of Compliance Roger Weeks.

Police and Roads and Maritime Services inspecting trucks in NSW following a spate of fatal crashes.
Police and Roads and Maritime Services inspecting trucks in NSW following a spate of fatal crashes.

Topics:  cars news motoring road toll



Routine gun check escalates into crime scene

Police established a crime scene at a Jiggi home after suspected cannabis plants were found during a gun compliance check.

Routine gun check uncovers more than guns, ammo

WIN: $1000 travel voucher could be yours

Ubirr Sunset, Kakadu National Park. Credit Peter Eve, Tourism NT.

Could you use a Flight Centre gift card to get away from it all?

2270 students suspended from schools across Northern NSW

School zone sign.

Our school district has highest suspensions rates in schools across NSW.

Local Partners

To the stranger who Photoshopped my picture

MIRANDA agreed to have her photo taken with her mum in a jewellery store. When she logged onto Instagram the next day, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

Don't delay: this test could save your life

LIFE-SAVING: Rob Patch is on a mission to convince people to have their sleep apnoea checked in order to prevent an early death.

"The doctors said I had come there to die.”

Cricket's Merv Hughes can’t stomach drink and drug-drivers

AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 26: Merv Hughes of Australia prepares to bowl on December 26, 1990 in Australia. (Photo by Getty Images)

former Australian cricketer’s first car was an HT Holden wagon.

Russia’s seedy ‘virginity trade’

On Russian social media, young girls and women are being recruited to sell their virginity to wealthy men. Picture: The Sun

Girls as young as 17 sell their virginity

Cancer teen married two days before death

19-year-old cancer patient Lydia Dominguez married her boyfriend Joshua Ordonez just two days before she died.

Teen with cancer dies after getting married two days earlier

Dad’s shock: ‘I was told I was a paedophile’

Karl Pollard was taking his daughter Stephanie to visit her sick grandmother. Picture: SWNS/Mega

Hotel apologises after wrongly accusing innocent dad of paedophilia