It's all about preventing more deaths

Tarrawingee’s Jenny and Jack Murray say legislation making electronic stability control on dangerous goods trucks doesn’t go far enough. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Tarrawingee’s Jenny and Jack Murray say legislation making electronic stability control on dangerous goods trucks doesn’t go far enough. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Doug McMillan

Doug McMillan

THEY see a fair bit of the North East’s highways, Jack and Jenny Murray do, shifting stock from paddock to paddock or on the Wodonga saleyards run.

Yep, they see quite a bit — like just the other day when they spotted yet another truck tearing down a quiet road, this time not far from their Tarrawingee home.

“We were doing our 80km/h easy enough ... then there’s this dirty great big truck, I could see him coming and I said ‘he’s doing well more than his 80, the robber’,” Mr Murray said.

Speed or no speed, he and his wife Jenny know all too well how easy things can go wrong with heavy vehicles on the road — in 2009, their granddaughters Jordan, 13, and Makeely, 11, died in a fuel tanker crash on the NSW south coast, near their home in Ulladulla.

The Murrays’ son-in-law David Bridge died five days later while their daughter Debbie Bridge, who suffered burns to 80 per cent of her body, died two years later — but not before she spoke at a coronial inquest into the crash in 2011.

That inquest led to a recommendation that all dangerous goods tankers should be fitted with electronic stability control, which alerts drivers when their trailer is starting to tip.

The NSW government has just this month — almost three years after that recommendation, and six months after a similar fuel tanker crash in Sydney’s Mona Vale last year that killed two people — moved to make ESC mandatory on all tankers, old and new, that come through the state.

While the Murrays have welcomed the move, they don’t believe it goes far enough and say ESC should be mandatory on all trucks, not just those carrying dangerous goods.

Doing so would cost trucking companies up to $10,000 per truck, but Mr Murray said safety must come first — after all, he reasons, any truck has the potential to lose control and roll, no matter the cargo.

“If you kill somebody through something that can be controlled, you’ve got to live with that for the rest of your life,” he said.

“It’s too late for us ... but if we can get something done, well that’s some good that’s come out of a catastrophic accident.”

The issue has garnered a lot of media traction in the past month and the Murrays have become the faces of the campaign.

They don’t want the interviews, the photos, the attention ... but if it helps push the state and federal governments to act, they’ll do it.

“It’s not about our accident — you can’t do anything about it,” Mr Murray said.

“But you don’t want the same damned accident to happen tomorrow or the next day or next year, when it can be prevented.”

They hope that NSW’s introduction of mandatory ESC will force the hands of other governments — as one of the major trucking routes in Australia, any truck passing through the state will have to have to be fitted with the system.

Murray Valley MP Tim McCurdy has said he will take it up with the Victorian government, while Indi MP Cathy McGowan this week urged the federal government to introduce national regulations.

The Murrays are frustrated it’s taken a second accident for movement on the issue but they won’t dwell on it: “You’ve got to think of what’s going to happen. You don’t want to see someone else get caught for the same stupidity.”

A HIGH-profile Border truckie believes forcing all tankers to retrofit electronic stability control would be a “mind-boggling” expense for the industry.

Owner of long-running trucking company D&P Haulage Doug McMillan said he would rather see the Roads and Maritime Services “up the ante” on checking trucks’ roadworthiness.

Mr McMillan made the comments in response to the NSW government’s bid to make ESC mandatory on all dangerous goods tankers old and new by 2019.

Speaking to The Border Mail this week while on the road from Albury to Queensland, he said the cost of retrofitting existing vehicles with the system would be “horrendous” — as would putting ESC on all vehicles.

“I don’t think the industry can afford it,” he said.

“The bull’s already out of the gate, you can’t get it back now.

“I think on new trucks it’s fine, but on the old ones we just need to make sure they’re roadworthy.”

Mr McMillan spoke from the point of view of a business-owner, not in his capacity of vice-chairman of the Australian Trucking Association, which has supported the NSW legislation.

The idea also has the backing of National Bulk Tanker Association.