Watch: Actions of Summerland truck driver praised

A firefighter has praised the quick-thinking actions of a Summerland truck driver who was able to safely pull over as his trailers were being engulfed in flames north of Oamaru.

St Andrews Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Rob Usmar said the driver of the truck did the right thing when he pulled off the highway about 7.41am and parked in the truck stop behind Makikihi Country Hotel.

"It's just one of those things unfortunately. Luckily, he was able to pull in there and not park in the middle of the road. He has actually done very, very well."

A police spokeswoman said they received a report of the truck on fire in State Highway 1 between Makikihi and Waimate at 7.41am.

The Summerland Express Freight vehicle parked in the car park of the Makikihi Country Hotel before it was extinguished by fire crews.

The driver's actions meant the truck was saved, but the two trailers were left a "stinking smouldering mess".

There were no reports of injury.

Makikihi Country Hotel venue manager Daniel Lewis said it was a bit of a shock having a burning truck pull up.

The driver told him he saw flames in his rear vision mirror and then started looking for a safe place to stop while driving the burning truck on SH1, Mr Lewis said.

"It was fairly well engulfed before it got here.

"He was just trying to get it to somewhere safe, off the highway."

There were not too many places to stop along SH1 in the area, so he was "lucky" he got it in to the hotel's car park before it was completely engulfed.

The driver appeared shaken after saving the truck by disconnecting it from its trailers.

The truck was carrying milk powder, which burnt surprisingly well.

"It was a fairly decent fire."

By 9.30am the fire had mostly been extinguished and a loader had been brought in to remove smouldering pallets.

All that was left of the trailers was a "stinking smouldering mess", he said.

Last month, a Summerland Express Freight truck carrying dangerous goods ran off State Highway 8, the Lindis Pass, causing ''moderate'' injuries to the 43-year-old driver.

Early last year, the Otago Daily Times reported on a spate of crashes involving Summerland vehicles on southern roads, spurring several investigations by the police Commercial Vehicle Safety Team.

Mr Lowe at that time rejected claims his employees were pushed to the limit, and said there was nothing wrong with drivers working up to 70 hours per week.

One of the crashes, on December 22, 2017, involved a Summerland truck-and-trailer unit being out of control in Pine Hill Rd as it travelled downhill, before rolling on to its side and coming to a stop near the Dunedin Botanic Garden. 

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