Training – good , bad or dangerous

A trainee operator was undergoing live training to drive a haul truck on an active open cut mine in the Pilbara -Western Australia.

The trainees’ previous experience was driving coaster busses.

He had been brought up in Malaysia prior to coming to Australia, English was his second language and he was about 30 years old.

The trainer was a very experienced haul truck driver with a very pronounced Scottish accent. He was about 55 years old. He was not a certified trainer assessor.

It was standard company practice for trainees to be paired with and trained by experienced haul truck drivers.

The Event

The fully loaded haul truck was being driven from downhill by the trainee with the trainer in the passenger seat.

The truck was approaching a tee Intersection with the truck needing to turn to the left.

On the other side of the intersection was a solid half wheel height earthen berm barrier which was put in place to prevent vehicles going over the edge and down into the open pit below which consisted of six 15 metre high benches – a drop to the bottom of around 90 metres.

As the truck approached the intersection, brakes were to be applied – firstly using the electric retarder braking system.

Due to a misunderstanding arising from language issues and probably panic – the retarders were not applied and the haul truck went straight through the intersection at full speed of about 40 kilometres per hour and hit the earthen berm directly full on

.

At this speed, the fully loaded the truck went through the berm and impacted nose down into the bench below with the two front wheels – one of the front wheels was completely ripped off.

At around this time both employees were ejected out of the cabin – It is believed they went through the front wind screen after the wind screen had popped out.

They did not hit the windscreen and they were not wearing seat belts.

The truck kept rotating and somersaulted down in to the open pit hitting other benches on the way; finally coming to rest 90 metres below on the remaining wheels and on fire.

The employees both ended up on and rolled down a scree slope without any major injury.

They were both extremely lucky.

Key factors

  • A good operator was seen by the organisation to be the best person to train and assess a new driver
  • Poor communication and understanding – Major Language and Cultural differences between the trainer and the trainee.
  • Training was done in a live pit operation scenario – where any mistake could be a fatal one.
  • The trainer could not control the truck if the trainee made a mistake.
  • The trainer was not a trained trainer and assessor.
  • Trainee competency was based on the opinion of the truck trainer – there was no set assessment criteria.