Is Eyre Highway Australia’s Most Dangerous Road Freight Route?

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A road train passes by Eyre Highway, (Image: David Murchie on Facebook)

Yesterday, truckies from across Australia gathered to pay their respects to Neville ‘Slim’ Mugridge at his funeral held in Gawler, South Australia. Slim, a beloved veteran truck driver with nearly 40 years at TML Transport, tragically lost his life in an accident that cast a spotlight on the potential dangers of one of the country’s key freight corridors.

The fatal crash that claimed Slim’s life and those of two other drivers occurred on April 4 on the Eyre Highway, near Yalata. The incident involved a head-on collision between two trucks, leading to a full-day closure of the highway as authorities conducted investigations, underscoring ongoing concerns about the safety of this vital transport route.

Paul Fellows, Chair of the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad), has recently labeled the Eyre Highway as potentially the most dangerous road freight route in Australia. This declaration followed discussions at a NatRoad Industry Forum, where numerous drivers shared their harrowing experiences on the 1200 km stretch linking Western Australia to the rest of the country.

“The tragic death of three truck drivers in a smash near Yalata on April 4 focused national attention on the Eyre Highway,” said Fellows. He emphasised the urgent need for discussions about driver competency and the implementation of improved national standards.

The Eyre Highway’s dangers have been further highlighted by the increased traffic volume following the temporary closure of the Trans-Australian Railway line due to flooding, reported ABC News. This closure forced an unprecedented number of freight deliveries onto the road, exacerbating the risks associated with an already challenging route.

Steve Shearer, chief officer of the South Australian Road Transport Association, reported a significant uptick in unsafe driving behaviours on the highway. “A lot of freight customers desperate to get their freight to Perth are throwing ridiculous amounts of money at truck operators,” Shearer explained. 

This desperation has attracted many inexperienced drivers unfamiliar with the treacherous highway.

Transport Workers Union branch secretary Tim Dawson echoed these concerns, pointing out the broader implications of relying heavily on less experienced drivers. 

Transport Workers Union branch secretary Tim Dawson (Image: TWU)

“There’s a crisis within our industry, and that is we continue to put people behind the wheels of trucks that haven’t had appropriate training,” said Dawson. 

He highlighted the April 4 crash as a stark reminder of the deadly stakes involved, emphasizing the need for immediate action to address these safety issues.

The recent tragedies and the ongoing concerns voiced by industry leaders and drivers alike strongly suggest that the Eyre Highway may indeed be Australia’s most dangerous road freight route. 

The combination of increased freight traffic, challenging driving conditions, and a mix of experienced and novice drivers creates a volatile environment that requires urgent attention from both industry leaders and regulatory bodies. 

As the industry mourns the loss of one of its own, the call for safer roads and better driver training has never been more critical.

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