With another two serious truck accidents on the Hume Highway near Goulburn in the past two weeks – one of them fatal – the Goulburn Post examines whether cruise control is a possible factor. LEIGH BOTTRELL reports.
IS cruise control on long-distance trucks – often allied with automatic transmission – contributing to serious accidents on our main highways?
This question increasingly is being raised as big semis and B-doubles proliferate and speed limits are increased on some major NSW country roads. Or, is boredom leading to drowsiness, brought on by modern “easy driving” truck technology and improved highways, the real culprit?
The jury is still out on this, while there is not yet definitive accident survey evidence pointing to cruise control’s role in accidents. But anecdotal evidence and practical knowledge of people long-associated with big rigs and their drivers suggests cruise-auto can be a mixed blessing.
Bert Cool has seen the aftermath of more truck accidents than probably anyone else in his 30 years with Royans, the Wagga Wagga-headquartered heavy vehicle recovery and repair group. Now operating Australia-wide,
Royans over the years have been called on to haul thousands of trucks back onto the road from every imaginable predicament. Too often, the smashed or burnt cabs tell the story of lives lost and families shattered. And Bert Cool has no doubt that drivers falling asleep while their long-haul rigs are running on cruise control is a contributing factor to a growing number of highway accidents.
“Definitely,” he says.
“It happens more often now. A driver can nod off and the truck just keeps going, because he doesn’t have his foot on the accelerator. Before he wakes up, they’re in the scrub, or they hit something.
“Before cruise control, if a driver dropped off at the wheel his foot nearly always fell away from the accelerator and the truck slowed down. He usually was woken up before they got into real trouble.”
However, Sergeant Rod Cranston, of Goulburn police highway patrol, doubts that cruise control by itself is a contributing factor to truck accidents.
For the full story, please see the print edition of Friday's Goulburn Post.