The West

Tragic proof of truckie s safety fears
Rodney Johnson with a picture of his brother Ashley. Picture: Lee Griffith, The West Australian

Truck driver Rodney Johnson warned Main Roads two years ago someone was likely to die on the dangerous North West Coastal Highway.

On Friday night his younger brother, truck driver Ashley Johnson, 48, became that tragic statistic after a crash near the Lyndon River Bridge near Carnarvon.

The brothers had long complained the 6m width of the highway along the 135km stretch north of the Minilya-Exmouth turn-off was too narrow, allowing only 50cm between passing trucks.

The older brother had spent years lobbying local, State and Federal governments to widen the highway. He gave up his campaign two years ago after repeatedly being told there was no funding.

"My last words to Main Roads were: Is it going to take a death for you guys to wake up to yourselves," Mr Johnson said.

"The ironic part, after all that campaigning, is that it was my brother who was killed."

Mr Johnson said truck drivers complained weekly of near misses on the stretch of highway, where cattle regularly wandered on to the road from unfenced stations.

In the five years to December, there were 28 crashes on the stretch of highway, injuring six people.

Mr Johnson, who took part in the cable TV show World's Toughest Trucker, said it was wrong to ignore conditions on a major road servicing North West mines. "We are not out there being cowboys, we are just trying to make a living and we deserve to be safe," he said.

Mr Johnson said the Government's failure to address the safety problem had robbed his brother's wife and two daughters of a loving husband and father.

The Transport Workers Union was considering a blockade as part of its protest at the 6m width.

Transport Minister Troy Buswell said the State Government had sought about $275 million in funding assistance to widen the road to 7m, with a 1m sealed shoulder on each side.

Mr Buswell said the State would try again under the Nation Building II program which starts in 2014.

The West Australian

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