Although police are still investigating the cause of this morning’s multiple truck crash in Serviceton, the Victorian Transport Assocation is adamant the SA border closure is responsible.
“The Victorian Transport Association extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to family, friends and colleagues of the heavy vehicle driver who died in a collision at the South Australian border overnight,” said CEO Peter Anderson in a statement.
“What makes his death all the more tragic is that it wouldn’t have happened had there not been another kneejerk closure of the South Australian border with Victoria.”
In motorists’ rush for the border last night, one truckie told ABC radio it took him five hours to drive 10km, only to find the checkpoint marquee empty when he got there.
“The VTA will continue to work with governments and the police to devise more safe and effective ways of managing border closures as they apply to freight operators, who for months have been working hard and under immense pressure during the pandemic to keep our national supply chains running seamlessly,” added Anderson.
Freestones Transport managing director Paul Freestone choked back tears as he told 3AW that the drivers should have been let through.
“The sad thing about this is … we all run a COVID plan. There were only three officers on duty,” Freestone told 3AW. “There‘s no reason for these trucks to be stopped. (Now there’s) a brother or a father not coming home tonight.”
Freestone also criticised the last-minute decision to close the SA border shut to Melbourne.
“You can’t run a country off these health officials that haven’t got a logistic bone in their body,” he said. “If you’re going to have an action plan to save an outbreak, it’s got to be done by one body.
“It’s got to be done by the federal government where you employ the best of the best people.”
South Australian Transport Association boss Steve Shearer, however, told Big Rigs he believes the border closure isn’t to blame for today’s tragedy.
“We don’t support that argument for these simple reasons,” said Shearer.
“We’ve been dealing very successfully for over a year with border closures and queues.
“There has been some suggestions in some media that trucks were rushing to get across the border but that shows those commentators are ignorant of the fact we are exempt and that we can just come through with paperwork.”
The TWU said it wants to see specific lanes for trucks automatically set up before borders are closed to allow truckies to continue their essential work without being forced to risk driving while fatigue.
TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ian Smith said reports of trucks backed up at the border last night are disturbing and may have contributed to the crash.
“This crash is an absolute tragedy that could have been avoided with proper consultation and notice,” said Smith.
“This once again highlights the urgent need for consultation with key industry stakeholders to avoid such circumstances from happening in the future.
“Hard border closures need to be implemented properly and the Marshall Governments’ knee-jerk response shows a lack of understanding of the industry.
“If the federal government continues to turn their back on truckies and refuse to come to the table to develop a national plan for border closures, it’s only matter of time before we see more tragedy on our roads.”