Truck drivers have warned that tight deadlines and a relaxed approach to safety standards – like mandatory rest breaks – could result in fatal car crashes during the festive season.
Speaking to Sky News, Tony Sheldon, head of the Transport Workers Union, said that up to 80 Australian truck drivers could lose their lives this holiday season. These deaths, he added, would largely be preventable if employers could ease the pressures of tight delivery windows and deadlines that could be unrealistic in holiday traffic.
As drivers scramble to ensure everything arrives on time, some disregard speed limits and other safety standards, including rest breaks.
"When you squeeze and you sweat trucks, and you sweat drivers, you kill people," said Sheldon. Another truck driver told Sky News that he has attended one funeral for a road death for each of the nearly 50 years he has been in the industry.
Last year, government statistics reported by Sky News showed that nine per cent of all fatal car accidents in Australia involving articulated trucks or heavy vehicles took place in December. A further eight per cent of these accidents occurred in January 2013. In total, there were 185 fatal crashes of this type between June 2012 and June 2013.
While companies that employ truck drivers can work to take matters into their own hands by enforcing comprehensive safety standards, the number of fatal collisions could also be reduced through infrastructure changes.
Speaking to The Illawarra Mercury, University of Wollongong associate professor Phillip Laird noted that some stretches of highway in New South Wales have been at capacity for nearly a decade.
Laird, who is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, said that Mount Ousley Road – the site of a recent crash between a ute and a semi-trailer – cannot keep up with current traffic demands.
He suggested that improving both road and rail infrastructure for freight transport could be one solution to the highway congestion and the frequency of car accident injuries and fatalities.
If you or a loved one have suffered a car accident injury on one of New South Wales' overcrowded highways, you may be eligible for compensation. Speaking to a car accident injury lawyer can be a wise course of action, as they can advise you on your options.