NT trucking boss Louise Bilato is confident she now has the research she needs to support a case to fund more first responder training for truckies across Australia.
The executive officer of the NT Road Transport Association presented the findings of a comprehensive survey into the largely overlooked element of the job for the first time publicly at this month’s Trucking Australia conference on the Gold Coast.
The first phase involved a series of first response training courses in conjunction with Western Roads Federation (WRF) and TraumaSim, and the survey responses have helped quantify some alarming anecdotal evidence around the number of truckies involved, and the resulting impact this has on their mental health.
Of the 161 truckies who responded to the survey questions, 105, or 65 per cent, had been first on the scene of an accident at least once.
The survey also revealed that a significant portion of those drivers were there for greater than 30 minutes without formally trained emergency personnel in attendance.
“In the case of about 16 per cent, they were there for longer than two hours on their own, and obviously these drivers had a job to do, so the vast majority continued on their way after they assisted at the scene of a serious injury or fatality,” said Bilato, who brings more than 30 years of post-incident support experience to the project.
“One of the key findings in the survey was that the mental health is a very significant safety risk if it’s not being addressed that truck drivers are first responders on the scene of motor vehicle accidents to a greater extent than potentially has been acknowledged previously, and we need to do something about it.”
“Upskilling truck drivers in a short intensive course has got real potential to actually save lives, and improve the outcomes for truck drivers in terms of their mental health and well-being. And as I said at the start, we employ people as is where is, and we can’t assume that everyone that is resilient and able to manage the aftermath of these sorts of incidents without support.
Bilato is also buoyed by the recent findings of a road safety report by the Joint Committee on Road Safety which recommends: “that the Australian government work with state and territory governments, the heavy vehicle sector, and other road safety stakeholders to support national rollout of first response training for heavy vehicle drivers.
“The committee considers that this training should be included as an action item in the National Road Safety Strategy 2021–2030.”
WRF CEO Cam Dumesny, who also spoke at the conference, said the goal now is to get federal government funding so the training programs, including instructional training aids, and associated trauma kits can be rolled out coast to coast.
“The intention is to provide a complete package for other associations across the nation to use,” he said.
Dumesny stressed that the truckies’ training course has proven credentials, with blended lessons from an award-winning Queensland Police program that’s already saved 90 lives, and TraumaSim’s 10-year involvement in pre-deployment training of soldiers in care of combat casualties.
He added that truckies shouldn’t be concerned about liability factors if they are first on an accident scene, as one delegate queried, due to the Good Samaritan laws, which protects a person acting in good faith while helping someone in need.
Veteran truckie Jerry Brown-Sarre told Big Rigs he’s been campaigning for first responder training for truckies for years and is adamant it should be a compulsory part of the MC licence test, at the very least.
In his 60 years of driving he estimates that he’s been first on the scene 24 times, 15 of those involved fatal or serious injuries.
“One of the worst in the was in the 70s waiting for two hours with dead and injured for someone to come along and go back to Yelarbon to get help and not knowing how to help the injured.
“Another on the Hume in the 60s, three soldiers, two dead in the front, one on the back floor, still alive, but I had no idea what to do for him.”