Applying the brakes on truck deaths

Four months ago, the Queensland Government launched a blitz to stop the deaths and injuries caused by ineffective brakes. Michael Mills reports on the progress on and off mine sites since then.

In October last year, the Queensland Mines Inspectorate called on the mining industry to put an end to the deaths and injuries caused by inadequate truck braking.

Ineffective brakes had been responsible for two fatalities, several injuries and countless near-misses in Queensland during the previous two years.

In an edict to the industry, the Inspectorate declared the situation would not be allowed to continue.

“The risk to the truck driver and those who may be struck by uncontrolled truck movements is not being controlled to an acceptable level,” the Department said.

The Inspectorate’s commissioner of mine safety and health Stewart Bell told Australian Mining the industry has responded very positively in the months since the edict was issued.

“Our inspectors have begun heading out to all the operating mines in Queensland to check the vehicles’ brakes and how they are maintained,” he said.

The issue has become more prevalent as miners and contractors are increasingly using heavy on-highway trucks in off-highway conditions.

The brakes on the on-highway trucks are often not adequate for continuous operation in the hostile environment of a minesite.

For instance, many of the dusts typical to minesites are abrasive and acidic and can therefore cause rapid wear, rusting or contamination.

Despite the Government’s strong response to the issue, Bell does not believe the current legislation should be changed to enforce the use of auxiliary braking systems.

However, Ken Johnsen the chief executive Advanced Braking Technology (ABT), believes the Government should encourage the extra safety equipment.

“The State Governments tend to have risk mitigation policies,” he told Australian Mining.

Since the Inspectorate issued the order, ABT has installed five of its Sealed Integrated Braking Systems (SIBS) onto trucks in Queensland.

“Most of the Queensland mines we are dealing with are getting a strong message that they have to get their act together,” Johnsen said.

“Hopefully, the mines will never need to use our brake, because it would mean they are maintaining their brakes correctly.”

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