Australia: Cleanaway truck driver in double fatality had never driven manual before, court hears - - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia Cleanaway truck driver in double fatality had never driven manual before, court hears

02:15  03 december  2019
02:15  03 december  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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The driver of a sewage truck which caused the 2014 double fatality at the base of Adelaide's South Eastern Freeway had never driven a manual heavy vehicle or on the steep downhill freeway track before the horror crash, a court has heard.

Darren Hicks today gave evidence against his former employer, Cleanaway Operations, which is being prosecuted by federal government agency Comcare for failing to adequately train him.

Mr Hicks, who has immunity from prosecution, lost control of the truck before it slammed into cars at the base of the freeway, killing Thomas Spiess, 57, and Jacqueline Byrne, 41, on August 18, 2014.

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He was seriously injured in the smash.

Criminal charges against him were dropped last December.

Mr Hicks told the Adelaide Magistrates Court he got his heavy rigid vehicle licence in June 2014 and had never driven a manual truck or on the South Eastern Freeway before the incident when he lost control.

He said he did a two-day course at the G&L Heavy Vehicle Training Centre to get his licence and started work at Cleanaway Operations on August 12, 2014 — six days before the crash.

First day driving truck

Prosecutor Justin Hannebery QC asked the driver if he had ever driven Cleanaway's "Truck 105" before the day of the crash and questioned how familiar he was with the vehicle.

He responded that it was the first day he had driven that particular truck and it was different to the ones he had used in the days prior or during his training course.

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The truck driver , who had been given immunity from criminal prosecution, said by the time the truck had started to gather speed and he hit the brakes, it The court also heard how he probably would have made the trip down the freeway with an empty truck had a sewage depot in the Adelaide Hills

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"For the most part it was completely different — it was older, it was a manual rather than an automatic, two axles rather than three," Mr Hicks said.

He said the gearbox was "clunky" and changing gears was not "that smooth" in Truck 105 but he was not concerned.

He told the court he started to gain speed on the freeway with the sewage tank "near capacity".

He said he put the exhaust brakes on when heading downhill but was then forced to apply the footbrakes.

"I continued to use them because I felt like I wanted to slow the vehicle down — the truck was going too fast to change gears," he said.

"At any point going down the freeway did you pass an arrester bed?" Mr Hannebery asked the driver.

He responded that he had passed both beds on the freeway before he applied the footbrake.

Mr Hannebery asked the driver if Cleanaway staff ever discussed with him how to drive down the freeway, the changes while transporting liquid or what an arrested bed was.

He responded: "No, I don't think so."

Driver tested on competency

Lawyers for Cleanaway Operations asked Mr Hicks if he was "competency tested" for a number of situations, including double clutching, before the crash.

He told the court he was.

He also said Cleanaway told him to drive trucks to the road conditions.

Outside court, Thomas Spiess's widow, Jan Spiess, said the driver was brave to testify against his former employer.

She said today closed this chapter for the man, who she had always supported.

The trial continues.

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