South Australia Police has been taken to task for the heavy-handed way it treated the family members of a truck driver who was killed, after he collided with another truck head on during a sandstorm. The driver of the other truck also died.
The driver of the truck who police later investigated had made a quick decision to swerve into the oncoming lane to avoid hitting a car which had parked in the middle of the Sturt Highway. Two other trucks were following behind him.
Director of the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), Steve Shearer, said the mother and uncle of the deceased driver were treated like “terrorists” when officers raided their home searching for evidence of driver fatigue.
When police arrived, the family didn’t know at the time that the truck driver had died, and the police refused to inform them.
Additionally, the police were told beforehand that the deceased driver had been working for himself and that the truck involved in the collision didn’t belong to the raided company.
“The police were told that and yet they still attended and acted as if they were dealing with criminals,” Mr Shearer said.
“They demanded documents, which they are entitled to ask for, but it is quite clear, given what they’ve asked for, that they are treating these individuals who have just lost their son and nephew, as if they’re criminals. And it is not acceptable.
“It was neither necessary, nor reasonable. It’s unconscionable and we’re extremely angry.”
Mr Shearer said that SARTA will be lodging a “very serious complaint” about this matter.
The wife of the other truck driver who was killed issued a public statement through the Transport Workers’ Union SA/NT (TWU) in response to the fatal incident.
“Brenden was a loyal husband, father, friend and colleague. He had been a driver for most of his working life, starting in the job when he was just 16, and he loved his job,” she said.
“He was very conscientious about safety but he knew that many truck drivers are forced to focus on making the deadline and delivering the load.
“Drivers should be allowed to do their jobs safely and come home to their families. There are too many drivers being killed on the roads.
“I’d like the blame game to stop.
“Drivers are copping the blame and fines for rules which put all the focus on the drivers.
“It just piles more pressure on and makes the job even more dangerous.”
Branch Secretary of TWU SA/NT, Ian Smith, said that truck drivers “should not be forced to sacrifice themselves to get a job done”.
“We would like to see the companies at the top of the transport supply chain being held to account for the safe delivery of their goods,” he said.
“We would like to see the pressure lifted from drivers and transport operators so that they can do their jobs, maintain their trucks and operate safely and in a sustainable manner.
“In too many cases today safety is being cut so that big retailers, manufacturers and oil companies can make profits.
“That isn’t fair and it is costing lives.”
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