The NT Road Transport Association in collaboration with Western Roads Federation will be consulting with drivers and member companies to address the issue of truck drivers acting as first responders for up to three hours at vehicle accidents in remote Australia.
This development follows funding from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) 2019 Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI), supported by the Federal Government.
Earlier this year, according to Western Roads Federation, a truck driver was the first responder on a remote regional road where he was required to provide first aid for nearly three hours until emergency services arrived. The single vehicle accident reportedly involved a family with young children, where one adult was deceased and the other in critical condition.
“These stories are all too common in remote and regional WA and the NT, where drivers have been first responders at accidents from very serious to fatal,” Western Roads Federation said in a statement. “As first responder they have been required to administer first aid often for prolonged periods, call and assist emergency services in locating the accident site, and in some instances also try and ensure the safety of the site from other approaching vehicles. Once they are relieved of their tasks by emergency services, they are often allowed to continue their journey, without consideration of their mental health both in the immediate and longer term.”
NT Road Transport Association Executive Officer, Louise Bilato, said “the problem is no one knows how often this occurs. Yet we know from industry stories that it is happening. It is a tragic hidden problem that we must address.”.
A modified US program will also be delivered in five locations to teach volunteer drivers: how to communicate directly with emergency services, including RFDS, and what sort of information is required; maintaining safety at the scene for both the driver and others, in daylight and night time incidents; conducting a more detailed casualty assessment to look for and identify any other injuries that may require treatment and/or management; dealing with trauma victims for extended periods before the arrival of emergency services personnel and improvising when needed.
The joint NT Road Transport Association and Western Roads Federation project will be led by Bilato, who has more than 30 years experience in remote area mental health and road transport. The project will be coordinated with the Injury Matters project that was also funded by the HVSI.
Project findings will be reported to the NHVR, state transport ministers through the Remote Area Consultative Group and local road safety focused groups such as TransafeWA.
Drivers are encouraged to contact NT Road Transport Association and Western Roads Federation to share their experiences.