Taieri road rage: Driver 'punched' and truck smashed up

Police speak to a truck driver who was allegedly assaulted and had his truck damaged in an road...
Police speak to a truck driver who was allegedly assaulted and had his truck damaged in an road rage incident on State Highway1 near the Taieri River Bridge. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A bread truck driver was forcibly stopped, allegedly assaulted and had his windscreen broken and his truck reversed into, in a particularly violent case of road rage yesterday.

About 8.15am the Coupland’s Bakeries driver was finishing his shift, driving between Waihola and Dunedin on State Highway 1, when an older-model, cream-coloured ute overtook him.

The truck driver, who declined to be named, said when the ute driver passed him, he showed him his middle finger and then crossed over, and did a "hard brake" in front of the truck.

However, the driver of the ute disputes the truck driver's version of events saying he feared for his safety and acted in self defence. 

According to the truck driver, when they reached the traffic lights in place at the Taieri River Bridge, the ute driver swiftly exited his vehicle, climbed on to the truck’s footstep and started assaulting the him through the window, the driver said.

"He started punching me. I managed to push him off."

The man then went back to his ute, where a woman passenger handed him some kind of stick.

The truck driver had exited his truck, when the man came back and started hitting him with the stick.

"I tried to hold him off and [the woman] was yelling at me to get back in the truck.

"He then picked up a jack and smashed my front windscreen."

The man got back into his ute and reversed into the truck, damaging it with his tow ball.

When the lights turned green, the ute driver fled the scene.

The truck driver said he did not know why the man was so angry but thought it may have been due to him travelling at 90kmh — the maximum speed limit for a truck.

A Coupland’s manager said legally the bakery’s trucks were only allowed to travel at 90kmh.

"If we go over 90kmh, the police can give us a ticket. Any faster and we are speeding.

"Staying safe on the road is the priority, so our trucks stay at 90kmh."

Ute driver 'concerned for safety'

The ute driver told the ODT he was following the truck when he noticed it weaving over lanes and was concerned about the truck driver's welfare. 

"I thought he might have been falling asleep or something." 

He said the truck "slammed on its brakes" suddenly, nearly causing his vehicle to collide with it, so he moved in front of it. 

When the vehicles had to stop at traffic lights at roadworks on the bridge, he got out to talk to "have a discussion" with the truck driver, who he alleged was abusive towards him and threatened him. 

The ute driver got the other person in his vehicle to give him the baton because he was concerned for his own safety, he said. 

He had bought the baton, which he said was similar to an older style police-issue telescopic baton, from a dairy in Invercargill, for self-defence. 

But the truck driver got hold of it and attacked him instead, causing cuts to his head and bruising to his back, the ute driver alleged. 

"He's lucky he didn't kill me with that stick, or any other person when he was weaving all over the road." 

The ute driver said he did smash the windscreen, because the other man was attacking him, and he did back into the truck deliberately in an attempt to "get the radiator", so the  truck would no longer be able to travel. 

He had left the scene and not waited for police because he had an appointment for surgery, but had let the police know on the way, and was talking with police today, the ute driver said. 

Video footage, which he declined to share, would prove his version of events, he said. 

The Couplands manager said the truck driver was at home resting.

"He is OK, just in a bit of shock.

"There was nothing the driver did wrong.

"I feel sad that it happened to him. He is a really hard worker and has been doing really great.

"The driver and his family are new to New Zealand, and I’m sad he experienced something like this."

The manager said road rage was not an uncommon experience for the company’s drivers.

"I tell them if things like this happen to stay in the truck, get your cellphone out and record the whole thing, and do not ever try and confront the other party.

"If they want to smash the truck, they can smash the truck.

"I’m concerned with the employees staying safe."

A police spokesman said police were notified of the assault and no injuries had been reported.

Inquiries were continuing.

Police urged anyone who experienced road rage or antisocial road usage to report it.