Criminal truckies should be off road, say family of victim Rian Payget-Strathdee

SMH, by Mario Christodoulou, 11 September 2017

The family of a six-year-old killed after being shunted off the road by a truck, have called for truckies with a history of road offences to be taken off the road.

Six-year-old Rian Payget-Strathdee was killed when a truck hit the family car, pushing it off the road, while driving to Canberra for a family holiday in November 2004. The driver of the truck was never identified.

Laurie Strathdee and Jasmine Payget's son Rian was killed in a hit and run accident on November, 2004. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Laurie Strathdee and Jasmine Payget’s son Rian was killed in a hit and run accident on November, 2004. Photo: Wolter Peeters

A suspect in the case, Victorian driver Brent Willem Vandenberg, 54, was found to have been on the road despite having a significant driving record with more than 60 driving offences stretching back to 1981 including careless driving, negligent driving and high-range speeding offences.

Following the accident in 2009 Vandenberg told police he had been taking amphetamines for 10 years prior to the night of the accident but wasn’t on drugs on the night

Rian Payget-Strathdee was was killed when a truck hit the family car in November 2004. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Rian Payget-Strathdee was was killed when a truck hit the family car in November 2004. Photo: Wolter Peeters

He confirmed to Fairfax Media that he is still working as a truckie, when contacted last week.

He has maintained he wasn’t involved in the accident that led to Rian’s death.

But the case has raised questions about the licensing of truck drivers. Jasmine Payget, Rian’s mother, has called for the NSW and Victorian governments to stop truck drivers with a significant history of offences from getting behind the wheel.

“How can it happen that a person who has a long history of speeding, doesn’t get stopped from driving … They are driving a lethal weapon and they have to be professional drivers,” she said.

“I don’t want people chucked out of their jobs, but they need to learn what you need to do when you are a truck driver.”

There is currently no prohibition on drivers with a long history of road offences working as truck drivers. Under current rules truck companies cannot compel truck drivers to divulge their driving history due to privacy rules.

NSW Roads minister Melinda Pavey said heavy vehicle operators can check the driving background of their employees, but the system is not compulsory. She would not say whether those drivers with long records should be taken off the road.

“My heart goes out to the family of the little boy. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your child in that manner and not have anyone held responsible,” she said.

“An online driver licence check service is provided to authorised organisations, such as heavy vehicle operators, to assist them to fulfil their road safety duty of care responsibilities as well as to encourage the promotion of good driving practices.”

In Victoria, Road Safety Luke Donnellan said the government had a robust licensing and infringement regime which included significant penalties including loss of licence and terms of imprisonment for some offences.

He did not answer specific questions about whether truck drivers should be off the road when they have considerable driving offences to their name.

It comes as a Fairfax Investigation shows that in NSW drivers can get a truck licence after only a day’s training for a nine-tonne truck. The situation led one Senator – National Senator John “Wacca” WIlliams to say drivers were being put on the road without adequate experience.

“To me, that seems a bit brief. I would prefer to see an L plate on the back and someone in there with them,” he said.

“When we learned we were on country roads, there was no one around. But when you are in congested traffic in a nine-ton rigid in a city you have to have pretty good knowledge of the width of your vehicle.”

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© 2016 Transport Workers' Union of Australia.
Authorised by Tony Sheldon, TWU National Secretary, 388-390 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia.