When a loose load is a missile launcher

The Daily Telegraph

Tuesday 23 July 2002

`It's about time drivers secured things properly'

A FEW centimetres was the difference between a ``minor accident'' and a tragedy yesterday when a plank of wood from a passing truck speared through the front window of a government bus.

The wood just missed the female bus driver.

The incident has served to focus attention on load-carrying issues on the state's roads.

The woman was driving in Fitzgerald Ave, Maroubra, when the accident occurred at 11.45am yesterday.
A witness said she believed the rope securing the load of wood had loosened and allowed the plank of wood to fall off.

The accident has prompted calls for tougher laws to govern “dangerous” loads on vehicles.

At present, police and Roads and Traffic Authority inspectors have the right to pull over vehicles with heavy and hazardous loads and issue a warning or fine.

Yesterday the woman was driving the bus to the Port Botany depot when the plank was flung off the truck. The truck driver, who is in his late 20s, stopped to see if the woman was hurt.

Two police officers from Maroubra witnessed the accident and stopped to offer assistance but it was classed a minor accident. The bus driver did not wish to report the incident to police but preferred to have the insurance company deal with the issue.

A NSW State Transit spokeswoman said the bus was operating as a special service and there were no passengers.
“The bus was not operating as a regular service at the time. It was not on a direct route. The female driver was heading back for a meal break,” the spokeswoman said.
“This is only a minor traffic issue. The bus operator is fine and the bus has been impounded by police,” she said.

Although the driver was shaken, she was not injured.

The accident prompted calls from the Pedestrian Council of Australia for tougher laws on “dangerous” loads on vehicles.

Council chairman Harold Scruby said unsafe loads were an accident waiting to happen.
“You can drive on any Sydney road to see what people put on their cars and trucks and they tie them down with a piece of rope,” Mr Scruby said.
“It's about time we got serious about this issue and let drivers know that things have to be secured properly.”

A NSW Roads and Traffic Authority spokesman said most industry professionals were familiar with loading guidelines.
“People who don't usually cart big loads around should seek guidance and assistance from professional carters or transporters,” he said.

RTA loading guidelines

  • If the load overhangs more than 1.2m to the rear, drivers must hang a red flag or other warning device from it during the day and a red light or two reflectors at night

  • A load overhang must be less 150mm to the side, if the vehicle is less than 2.5m wide, or no more than 1.2m in front of the headlights

  • The rules stress that a load must be safely and securely fastened to prevent any part of the load falling from the vehicle