Father and son truckies left in wheelchairs after crashes, 20 years apart


Gary Sutton was transporting a load of sugar out of Harwood, NSW, when his left-hand steer tyre blew, causing his truck to roll.

His son Andrew was just eight when the crash left his father a quadriplegic, but it didn’t stop him following his dad into a career behind the wheel.

But tragically, Andrew suffered the same fate 20 years later when his truck veered down an embankment on the way back to the depot.

Andrew was thrown from the wreckage but left with serious physical and mental injuries.

“I was lucky to be found when I was, from what I’ve been told they’ve never seen someone so broken who was still alive,” said Andrew, a father-of-six.

Gary and ‘AJ’ are now sharing their heartbreaking story as part of a WorkSafe Victoria campaign to highlight the health and safety risks involved in work-related driving.

“They’re putting people with so little experience in these [trucks]. They’re not an easy thing to drive and control,” Gary, 58, told The Age.

“You can’t put someone through a program for two months – when you’re just talking to them – and expect them to know what they’re doing.”

In a just-released video to support the campaign, Gary says it was a “massive shock” to learn that AJ would also be confined to a chair.

“I’ve talked to AJ a lot in the last 18 months  and said to him just take it day-by-day and do the best you can. You’ll think you can’t do it but you’ll end up finding out that you can actually do it.”

Road incidents tragically claimed the lives of 17 workers in Victoria last year, more than a quarter of the state’s total workplace fatality toll for 2022.

Most of those killed were workers who spent a majority of their time on the road, such as truck and delivery drivers, but several workers also died in incidents while driving between workplaces or appointments.

WorkSafe’s executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer said legal duties for both employers and workers extended to any vehicles used for work, regardless of the location or industry.

“Whenever a worker is on the road as part of their role, that vehicle is considered to be their workplace, Dr Beer said.

“This applies to any vehicle being used for the purpose of work, including personal vehicles, whether the worker is being paid an allowance or not.”

“This means that employers must ensure that the vehicle being used is safe and without risks to health and that drivers are appropriately licensed and trained, while workers must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of other road users.”

Also last year, at least 486 workers had a claim for compensation accepted after being injured due to a vehicle incident on the road in the course of their employment.

Dr Beer said it was crucial for employers to have systems in place to ensure that vehicles are adequately maintained, drivers are appropriately trained and risk factors are identified and properly managed.

“Speeding, drugs and alcohol, fatigue, and technology use or other in-vehicle distractions are all things that should be considered,” she said.

“It’s also important to plan ahead to avoid any adverse road conditions which can increase the risk of serious injury or death.

“Employers should consult with workers on appropriate road safety policies, procedures and instructions.”

WorkSafe is taking a targeted, prevention-led approach that focuses on the highest risk sectors and hazards that are causing road transport fatalities and serious injuries.

Activities include strategic workplace visits and joint enforcement activity with WorkSafe’s regulatory partners, and working closely with other road safety stakeholders to enable and motivate employers across all industries to improve safety outcomes.

Duty holders who fail to meet their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act face potential prosecution and significant penalties, including fines and possible jail terms.

In June 2022, transport company Peter Stoitse Transport was convicted and fined $490,000 following the 2018 death of a milk tanker driver in a rollover at Leongatha. A court found the company had failed to ensure their drivers were properly trained and failed to ensure their trucks were maintained in a safe mechanical condition.

Since the start of 2019, 64 workers have died as a result of road transport incidents in Victoria. The deaths of workers commuting to and from work are not included in the toll.

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