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ACT Coroner probes lax truckie licensing laws at inquest

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Trucking’s slipshod driver licensing laws were the focus of a coronial inquest in Canberra this week into the tragic death of toddler Blake Corney.

ACT Chief Coroner Lorraine Walker is probing the reasons that allowed sleep-deprived truckie Akis Livas to get behind the wheel before blacking out and killing Blake in 2018.

Livas, 58, had previous convictions for driving suspended, dangerous driving and negligent driving, and is serving a three-year and three-month jail sentence for culpable driving causing Blake’s death.

The inquest is considering recommendations to improve licensing arrangements for commercial drivers, and Walker is expected to hand down her findings in August.

Suggestions included mandatory reporting by doctors of people who may have conditions impeding their ability to drive, reports the ABC.

Dr Vanita Parekh, who runs a licence assessment clinic, told the court mandatory reporting would help protect doctors who are in a difficult position.

“We see patients when no one wants to tell them it’s time to stop driving,” she said.

She said other conditions, including psychiatric illness and epilepsy, should also be included.

Dr Parekh suggested there was a need for much better information sharing between agencies.

When quizzed about whether that would have prevented the accident that killed Blake, she conceded neither her clinic, the Road Transport Authority or the police knew about Livas’s sleep apnoea.

But she said mandatory reporting may have changed that.

The inquest also heard there were legal hurdles, including requirements for automatic braking in trucks, as well as the technologies to monitor drivers.

Last year, the Supreme Court heard Livas was first referred to a sleep specialist in 2013 over concerns he suffered sleep apnoea, but never actually saw the specialist.

In 2017, in the months before he started driving a tip truck for a Canberra landscaping business, Livas again went to a doctor complaining of drowsiness and was again referred to a sleep specialist, but never went.

In a job application to become a truckie, Livas said he was healthy and didn’t know of any condition he had which might affect his ability to do the job safely.

Blake’s family have long wanted the coroner to look into the licensing loopholes which allowed Livas to keep his license, and they are expected to use the inquest to push for more rigorous medical testing regimes for truck drivers and for mandated improvements in safety technology for heavy vehicles.

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