4WD operators fight for 10-seaters

FRASER Coast 4WD operators have not given up on convincing the government they should be allowed to carry up to 10 passengers in each tag-along backpacker truck convoy.

“I spoke with the transport minister, Rachel Nolan, on Sunday and she told me she had decided that only eight people could travel in Fraser Island hire vehicles and that includes tag-along,” 4WD association spokesman Dave Robertson said yesterday.

“We have asked for up to 10 passengers in each truck so we will continue to fight on that front. We can ensure safety in a tag-along situation with 10 passengers and that will also keep our prices down.”

After meeting with Fraser Island 4WD operators in September Ms Nolan said she had “reviewed the evidence and was willing to make some concessions”.

“We were considering only allowing forward-facing seats in the vehicles, as the safety risk is much greater in side-facing seating. I have not changed my mind on the side-facing seats, however I am willing to permit rear-facing seats based on evidence that safety will not be comprised by increasing by one seat.”

Ms Nolan said she would not compromise on the requirement for luggage to be stowed inside vehicles.

“Heavy items stored on the roof of a 4WD raises the centre of gravity of the vehicle and makes them more prone to rollover accidents.”

She said the measures would be progressively introduced throughout 2010.

“Originally the new measures were to be introduced by Christmas 2009 but, in order to allow hire 4WD operators more time to make their vehicles compliant, the laws will start coming into effect on 1 April 2010. By this date, all 4WD hire vehicles will only be able to carry a maximum of eight occupants, including the driver, and all luggage will have to be safely secured inside the vehicle.

“Hire vehicles will also be required to have excess seats removed, any side-facing seats replaced with forward or rear-facing seats and be fitted with seatbelts that meet Australian design rules.

“4WD hire vehicles that do not meet these specifications must be modified or replaced by December 31, 2010.”

Yesterday and Monday Qld Transport and Main Roads inspectors were spot checking hire vehicles going on to the River Heads barges to the island.

Ms Nolan said that last week 13 defects had been found in 22 vehicles from eight hire companies and that “safety will continue to be the priority in vehicle safety reforms commencing on Fraser Island by Christmas”.

Mr Robertson said inspectors had checked only hire vehicles.

“Private vehicles have just been waved on to the barges, including one that had fishing rods duct-taped to the bull bar.

“If you’re going to check vehicles, we say check all the ones that look a bit obvious.”

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