Coroner calls for lower speed limits for artic cranes
A report on a fatal traffic incident with a Terex/Franna AT 20 crane is highly critical of vehicle regulators and calls for changes in the law
The incident occurred in Toowoomba, Queensland on 16th September 2013. Christine Leonardi, 37, was travelling in the opposite direction to the new Franna AT-20 crane as she took her three children to school. The crane fishtailed out of control and swerved across the traffic into the Leonardi’s car killing Mrs Leonardi and her six year old son Samuel. The two other children survived with minor injuries.
The crane, owned by Loughlin Crane Hire and had only been delivered just two weeks prior to the incident and was declared to have been in perfect working order at the time. According to the coroner, the driver Rodger Hannemann was travelling downhill at 80 to 95kph, when the crane began to ‘wobble’ or ‘fishtail’, Hannemann tried to regain control but the crane became increasingly unstable, swerving from side to side, before turning directly into traffic on the other side of the road, cutting through the Leonardi car before coming to rest around 60 metres from the point of impact. Mrs Leonardi died on impact, while her son died in hospital two days later.
The coroner John Hutton has strongly recommended a new driving licence for articulated cranes, a 60kph maximum speed limit or 80kph if an automatic stability control system can be developed and greater training of operators. .
Hutton said that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator missed the point when it argued cranes were less dangerous because they hadn’t caused as many deaths as other vehicles.
“So what if other heavy vehicles have caused more fatalities on the roads than mobile articulated cranes? It shouldn’t mean no action is taken. When these cranes lose control they go into what is commonly referred to in this industry as a ‘death wobble,’ and how right that is.”
“It is my view that these machines need to be speed limited to 60kph and taken off high speed roads and highways. I am unable to make a finding as to whether an adapted electronic stability control system would have mitigated or prevented the incident that led to the death of Mrs Leonardi and Samuel because there are too many unknowns. However, I am of the view that further pursuit by Terex Australia into an electronic stability control device that can be retrofitted to their mobile articulated cranes is a worthwhile endeavour.”
“I think the speeding limit is really important ... it’s up to the authorities to implement all the recommendations now. These cranes are also very different to operate than other vehicles, and it defies logic to that a driver can automatically obtain a license for a mobile crane when you are trusted on a bus or truck, it’s unbelievable but it happened in this case.”
“I hope that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will act on this report now. There needs to be changes so this doesn’t happen to another family. There should be speed and road access restrictions imposed on these mobile cranes nationwide because their danger does not stop at the borders of Queensland.”
The full report can be viewed on line at www.courts.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/539556/cif-leonardicnandsj-20171011.pdf
A statement from the Australian crane association CICA said: “It is fortunate that such accidents, while tragic, are uncommon. CICA views safety in the crane industry as a top priority. CICA has a long history of developing successful safety initiatives to improve safety standards in the Crane Industry.”
“The development of a specific driver licensing requirement for articulated steering mobile cranes may improve the assessment of operator competency for such workhorse cranes.”
“CICA welcomes the opportunity to work with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, National Transport Commission, and State Road Safety regulators to improve road safety wherever possible.”
This report is one of the most comprehensive study of a traffic accident involving a crane that we have ever seen. It is definitely worth a read with its findings quite sobering.
This incident has not only prematurely ended the lives of the two that died, but also ruined the lives of dozens of friends and family members. One can only imagine the trauma on the two children that survived.
Hopefully lessons will be learnt and some good will come out of it.