Truckie death investigation rejects air suspension theory

A coronial investigation into a 2014 truck driver fatality in Tasmania has upheld original findings and rejected any issue associated with the air suspension system on the prime mover.

Todd Andrew Carver, 42, was killed on July 13, 2014, when the De Bruyn’s Transport prime mover he was driving, and laden fish tanker, rolled while heading northbound on Esperance Coast Road.

A 2015 coronial investigation determined that the cause of the crash was the vehicle exceeding the rollover threshold for the stretch of road in question.

The coronial investigation was finalised in October 2015 when Coroner Stephen Carey handed down his findings without holding a public inquest.

The case was reopened after engineer Dr Arnold McLean wrote to Carey (by that stage retired), more than two years later in February 2018, citing a safety issue with the type of air suspension system fitted to the prime mover involved in the crash.

According to McLean, as cited in court, “Just before the rollover, Mr Carver had operated the vehicle in low gear and with high torque without braking, and in that state, the air suspension exhibited the phenomenon of ‘frame rise’ which meant that the pressure in the air spring was ‘void’ and therefore the suspension would have had minimal roll resistance. With reduced roll resistance, the vehicle entered into a rollover on the curve in question.”

Coroner Olivia McTaggart re-examined the evidence but rejected his theory. “Upon reviewing the evidence upon which Coroner Carey based his findings, it was apparent that Dr McLean had not provided evidence in the original investigation nor had the issue raised by him been considered. It was unclear to me at that time how Dr McLean came to be in possession of considerable investigative information about the circumstances of the rollover so as to form his opinion.

“I find, as did Coroner Carey, that the cause of the rollover was that the vehicle driven by Mr Carver exceeded the rollover speed for the road. I find that there was no defect, fault or safety issue associated with the air suspension system on the prime mover as postulated by Dr McLean that contributed to the rollover.”

She cited that that aspects of Carver’s training required improvement, but that these “training issues” couldn’t be determined to have contributed to his death.

The investigation heard that Carver was a former police officer, joining Tasmania Police in 1990 before resigning in August 2011. He joined De Bruyn’s as a truck driver in October 2011. After driving for De Bruyn’s for almost 12 months, he began working for Driver Safety Services as a driver trainer and assessor. During that time, Carver trained De Bruyn’s drivers in the TruckSafe program.

While at Driver Safety Services, he obtained his HC licence. He returned to De Bruyn’s around November 2013 to drive heavy combination vehicles on the ‘fish run’. This involved driving prime movers and laden fish trailers at night between Port Huon and Huon Aquaculture in Hideaway Bay. “The route driven was along Esperance Coast Road, a distance of approximately 20 kilometres. Esperance Coast Road is a narrow road with a single lane in each direction and not constructed for heavy vehicular traffic,” Coroner Carey notes in the investigation.

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