South Australia’s Transport Minister says the state government is looking at deploying nets to catch runaway trucks traveling down the South Eastern Freeway.
- Nine people were injured when a truck hit a bus and cars last month
- Several options are being looked at to improve safety on the South Eastern Freeway
- A net to catch runaway trucks is one solution being considered
After a crash at the bottom of the freeway that injured nine people last month, safety concerns will be on the agenda when transporting ministers from around the country meet today.
Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DIT) was working around the clock to come up with a way to make the road through the Adelaide Hills safer.
“The idea of nets has been considered, but of course when you deploy a net it’s out of action for a while afterward and you could have another event,” he said.
“There is infrastructure available like that but it is extensive and damaging.
“The department is working overtime trying to work out how we can actually make sure that if we have a runaway truck what we can actually do.”
Other options also being considered
The South Eastern Freeway descends from the Adelaide Hills suburb of Crafers to where it ends at the intersection of Cross, Glen Osmond and Portrush roads.
Several crashes have occurred at the intersection, including some that have involved fatalities.
An allegedly unlicensed Queensland truck driver was charged with multiple offences over the latest crash on July 24.
Other options that Mr Koutsantonis said were being considered included taking over CB radios to warn drivers about the steep descent, more signs, point-to-point cameras, forcing trucks into arrester beds, real-time brake monitoring and forcing heavy vehicles into a slow lane.
But he said better training for truck drivers was probably the best solution.
However, he said it would not stop the 1 in 100,000 irresponsible drivers, who could be targeted with more prosecutions.
“We are working towards fixing the one who does break the law, but of course the consequences of the one person who doesn’t follow the law is catastrophic,” he said.
“We’re talking about trucks that are over 10 tons heading down at 110kph towards parked cars at the intersection of Cross Road and the South Eastern Freeway and it was a miracle no-one died two weeks ago.”
Hard spot for arrester beds
Soon after the crash, DIT chief executive Jon Whelan told a parliament committee a third emergency truck arrester bed at the bottom of the South Eastern Freeway was being considered.
“It has to meet the standards and it has to meet the design protocols for that to occur as well,” he said.
An arrester bed at the same location was considered after the 2014 double-fatal crash but in 2015 the Labor government said it had looked at nine locations but none were feasible.
“None of those are practical and none of those achieve the sorts of safety benefits that we’ve got with the two existing safety ramps,” then-transport minister Stephen Mullighan said.
The Royal Automobile Association of South Australia suggested a “dragnet type arrester system” in a report from 2020, along with another arrester bed.
The former Liberal government scrapped its proposed GlobeLink project to divert road and rail freight around the eastern side of the Adelaide Hills in 2020.
A smaller $12 million freight route upgrade opened last month, while a bypass around Truro has received funding.