Driver fatigue blamed as truck rolls on highway

Cars and trucks were backed up for kilometres on State Highway 3 between Wanganui and Waverley after a truck overturned yesterday morning.

The accident happened about 6.30am, when the truck, towing two trailers and heading for New Plymouth, overturned at Nukumaru, just short of Tauranga Ika Marae.

The driver appeared unhurt, but was taken to Hawera Hospital for a checkup, according to Sergeant Andy Anderson of the Ohakea commercial vehicle investigation unit.

The truck was carrying soda ash, also known as washing soda, a chemical with industrial uses. Some of it spilt out on the road but much of the load was intact.

The truck's windscreen was broken, diesel was leaking from its engine and it was further damaged while being righted.

The most likely cause of the accident was driver fatigue, Mr Anderson said. There was nothing untoward about road conditions.

He had checked the logbook and said the driver was on his first day back at work after three days off. He had driven from Hamilton to Palmerston North, swapped trailers and was on the way to New Plymouth. The truck was not overloaded, and the load well secured.

Emergency workers were able to divert traffic around the truck using a marae's driveway, a paddock and Pakaraka Rd. But it was a slow, one-way diversion over soft ground.

"It's unfortunate that with trucks and the nature of New Zealand roads, when they turn over there are often limited diversion opportunities," Mr Anderson said.

Clearing the road took until around noon. A heavy-duty Palmerston North tow truck and an Emmetts crane from Wanganui were there for the job.

- By Laurel Stowell of the Wanganui Chronicle

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