Truck Crash Inquest - Implications for Truckies and Operators

Truck Crash Inquest – Implications for Truckies and Operators

Truck Crash Inquest - Implications for Truckies and Operators

Steve Shearer says the industry supports the thrust of the recommendations. Source:

Since the two major truck crash inquests, 21 coronial recommendations have been made for heavy vehicle operations in South Australia. Some of the recommendations even relate to interstate operations.

According to South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) executive director, Steve Shearer while the industry supports the majority of the recommendations, authorities are going to have a difficult time implementing some of them.

There are already changes underway relating to the use of South Eastern Freeway by trucks but how the coroner’s recommendations following 2 fatal semi-trailer crashes will be realised is yet to be known.

The state transport and infrastructure minister Stephen Mullighan revealed that some of the coronial recommendations were already being implemented but others like Shearer say the government is going to have a hard time implementing some of the recommendations, especially those that have a national implication such as the training and supervision of drivers who haven’t yet made the descent, including interstate drivers.

Chain of Responsibility Fines and Outcomes in SA

South East Freeway – one of the arrester beds.

Shearer stated of the recommendations:

“Some of them might prove somewhat problematic, so we’re going to have to work through it and see how we go.”


South Australian deputy coroner Anthony Schapel made a total of 21 recommendations, made up of 17 as a result of the first incident involving driver James Venning and an additional four relating to the crash which killed 42 year driver John Posnakidis.

Particularly controversial has been the call for truckies to master the tricky section of the SA freeway descent before they are issued with a licence. The industry says this is just too impractical.

One of the recommendations by the coroner was that no heavy vehicle licence be issued to drivers unless they demonstrate that they can safely drive down the freeway descent, which they would have to do in the presence of a trained instructor.

SARTA director Shearer says the idea is unworkable, he was also quoted as stating:

“These requirements should apply not only to licensing regimes in South Australia, but should be a requirement that is also imposed on interstate drivers,” he said.


Some of the other recommendations made include prison for drivers who contravene section 108 of the Australian Road Rules. The rules relate to obeying low-gear signs on descents as they apply in SA. In an article on more of the recommendations were outlined:

bolstering the  law for exceeding the 60 km/h limit as driving in a manner dangerous to the public, causing death by such driving or causing serious bodily injury by such driving, regardless of the reason for that manner of driving

enabling the compulsory third party bodily injury insurer of a heavy vehicle to recover the amount of compensation paid in respect of death or bodily injury from the driver, his company and anyone in the chain of responsibility as a result of negligent driving on the section of the South-Eastern Freeway

mandatory tuition for trainee drivers on downhill gradients, including the use of safety ramps, and particularly training regarding the South-Eastern Freeway

Read more at:

Shearer explained that most of the recommendations were supported by SARTA but some were just too unrealistic such as the proposition of jail time for people choosing the incorrect gear and the need to be accompanied by another driver. Shearer explained:

“I suspect the coroner’s not intending that to mean … a driver who makes a simple mistake as distinct to a driver who wilfully and negligently just ignores the rules and just goes for it,” he says.

“For a journey that only takes 10 minutes, you wouldn’t send [an extra] driver from Brisbane to Adelaide – and it’s largely unenforceable,” Shearer says.


Other recommendations such as the 40km/h speed limit for the descent were more realistic according to Shearer.

Meanwhile bad driving mistakes and faulty trailer brakes were both identified as contributing factors in the 2 crashes, motivating the coroner to make the recommendations he did.

Although Shapel’s findings did relate largely to driver behaviour, lack of maintenance of vehicles was also identified as a problem.

The coroner also found that James Venning, a general farm hand and driver for agriculture firm Mitolo Group, failed to put his loaded semi in the right low gear at the start of the descent. This led to him being unable to reduce his speed. The driver relied on the brakes of the vehicle but 2 of the trailer brakes weren’t working and this contributed to the fatal crash. Shapel said in his findings,

“To my mind the inconsistency in the effectiveness of the six individual brakes of the trailer is a reflection of the variation of brake lining thickness in respect of the individual brakes and is a product If poor adjustment, lack of proper maintenance and a lack of adequate preparation having regard to the task that the trailer had to perform on the occasion in question,” the findings read.

“That any of the brakes of the trailer were in proper adjustment and were operating to a degree of effectiveness was in my view more due to happenstance than to proper maintenance.”


Similar circumstances surrounded the second crash which led to an additional 4 recommendations being made. It is important to remember that while the drivers’ actions may have contributed to the crashes, they aren’t the only ones responsible under Chain of Responsibility (COR) legislation.  To learn more about the chain of responsibility or to conduct Strategic Review of your company click here today.