Hannah’s grandmother Helen Ferguson told the Herald: “Any measures taken to prevent these tragedies and heartache that families go through would be very, very welcome.”
The proposal would see the technology introduced in November 2020 for new truck models and November 2022 for all heavy vehicles. European nations started to phase in requirements for AEB systems from November 2013.
Announcing the consultation Andrew Gee MP, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, said heavy vehicles represent only three per cent of vehicles on the road but are involved in 17 per cent of fatal crashes, costing the “community around $200 million each year,” he said.
“They also have a devastating effect on the individuals and families involved.” Mr Gee said.
In a statement the Australian Trucking Association said: “The ATA welcomes the release of the consultation regulation impact statement and will provide a detailed submission after careful consideration and discussion with our members.”
A second type of technology is also being expanded to improve the safety of heavy vehicles. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is used on petrol tankers and detects the stability of a heavy vehicle, and automatically activates if it senses risk of a rollover.
Legislation introduced on January 1 in NSW requires the ESC system to be fitted to all tankers used to transport dangerous goods and under Mr Gee’s proposals may extend to smaller vehicles.
Its use was suggested eight years earlier in 2011 by Deputy State Coroner Carmel Forbes following a Cootes petrol tanker rollover near Batemans Bay in 2009 which left the driver and three members of one family dead. A similar rollover of a Cootes tanker at Mona Vale in 2013 left two dead.
Catherine King, the Opposition’s Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, welcomed the government taking action to address the road toll.
“Auto emergency braking for heavy vehicles has been mandatory in Europe since November 2013, yet it has taken six years for the Morrison government to even begin consulting industry on implementing similar standards in Australia,” she said.
The truck driver alleged to have caused the death of Reagen Skinner and Hannah Ferguson near Dubbo on Friday pleaded not guilty to 12 charges, including two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death. Robert Crockford, 51, of Loganhome in Queensland, will stand trial next year.
Bev Fricke and husband Norbert were involved in the Batemans Bay crash and were travelling in one of three cars hit by the tanker. The Cootes tanker collided with a Subaru Forester driven by David Bridge travelling with his wife Deborah and daughters, Jordan, 13, and Makeely, 11. The girls died at the scene and Mr Bridge died in hospital six days later.
Mrs Fricke said she strongly supported the proposed legislation and said it should have been brought in years ago. “At the inquest Deborah Bridge stood up and strongly supported this automatic breaking system. She was very gung ho and she was prepared to go to trucking companies to push the idea and to show that she was the result of the accident.”
Tim Barlass is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald