Posted by on 11/02/2014
As emergency services work to clear a North Waikato highway blocked following a collision between a truck and a car, one man with decades of service in both the Fire Service and Police is asking motorists to take care on the roads during what is traditionally, a busy time for emergency services.
With 23 years in the Police and 33 as a volunteer fire-fighter, Midland Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU) team leader, Senior Sergeant Lex Soepnel, has seen more than his fair share of road trauma.
"The CVIU investigates serious crashes involving buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles.
"Over the period 1-23 January there were 52 crashes on Waikato Roads, nine of them involving trucks, the same number of truck crashes for the same period of last year."
Mr Soepnel said 7 January was the busiest period so far for truck crashes in the Midland Region his unit serves, with three crashes over a 24hr period, including two on Waikato roads.
"The biggest involved a collision between three truck and trailer units on SH27 near Matamata which saw one driver seriously hurt and the highway closed or down to one lane for over eight hours.
"From a Fire Service perspective, responding to truck crashes is particularly challenging in terms of resources and people. Many brigades in the Waikato rely on volunteers- people who need to leave work or home to attend call outs.
"Crash scenes involving trucks are a lot bigger, so it takes that much longer to manage and contain the scene. Heavy rescue equipment often has been brought in from Hamilton meaning the occupants of vehicles can be trapped a lot longer."
Mr Soepnel said the loads carried by trucks can also pose a risk to emergency responders.
"There may be hazardous material as part of the load or it may be unstable or have caused damage to power-lines which can all contribute to delays in getting to a trapped driver and getting them to hospital within that golden hour."
"February through to May is traditionally quite a busy one for us followed by August through to October. If we can get truckies to switch back from holiday mode to being road professionals sooner rather than later we will be well positioned to prevent trauma on our roads."
While most bus and truck drivers working on Waikato's roads act professionally, provisional analysis of 2013 crashes shows there is room for improvement.