One of the world’s top ex­perts on road safety reck­ons Aus­tralia has to get more tech­nol­ogy into and onto its trucks, writes Steve Skin­ner

Owner Driver - - News -

TRUCK UN­DER-RUN pro­tec­tion sys­tems and in-cab black boxes are nec­es­sary if Aus­tralia wants to im­prove its heavy ve­hi­cle safety, says a global road safety leader.

Dr Soames Job is head of the Global Road Safety Fa­cil­ity at the World Bank, and was one of the many em­i­nent safety ex­perts at the most re­cent Aus­tralasian Road Safety Con­fer­ence in Can­berra.

Owner//Driver pulled Dr Job and a few other ex­perts aside dur­ing a morn­ing tea break for 10 min­utes and asked for their top-of-the-head rec­om­men­da­tions for in­creased heavy ve­hi­cle safety in Aus­tralia.

“Trucks are dra­mat­i­cally over­in­volved in deaths on Aus­tralian roads on a per-ve­hi­cle ba­sis,” points out Job, an Aus­tralian road safety pro­fes­sor and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralasian Col­lege of Road Safety.

“That’s not to say that the truck driv­ers are at fault, but trucks are an ex­tremely un­for­giv­ing ob­ject to hit when an­other driver or an­other road user makes a mis­take. I think we need to be do­ing more to ad­dress that. We need more of the tech­nol­ogy aimed at pro­tect­ing not just the truck driv­ers, where we can also make im­prove­ment, but the road users around [them] who cop a very un­for­giv­ing out­come if they make a mis­take near a truck.

“I mean bet­ter pro­tec­tion within cars but also bet­ter pro­tec­tion on the trucks for road users around them for when there is a col­li­sion.”

Job rates the num­ber one mea­sure for hav­ing more for­giv­ing trucks as be­ing front, side and rear un­der-run pro­tec­tion.

“Good tech­nol­ogy in un­der­run pro­tec­tion is go­ing to save a lot of lives in Aus­tralia,” he says.

In­deed, an av­er­age of 12 peo­ple a year are killed in Aus­tralia in ac­ci­dents where they run into the back of trucks alone.

That sober­ing statis­tic was con­tained in a pa­per by Pro­fes­sor Raphael Grze­bi­eta from the Univer­sity of NSW and en­gi­neer Ge­orge Rech­nitzer, de­liv­ered at the con­fer­ence. It’s not hard to guess the hor­rific in­juries that oc­cur when the bon­net of a car goes un­der­neath the back of a truck and the back of the truck hits the wind­screen and oc­cu­pants’ heads be­fore car oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion de­vices ac­ti­vate.

Th­ese de­vices in­clude car crum­ple zones, frontal air-bags and pre­ten­sion­ing seat belts.

Lack of rear un­der-run pro­tec­tion is more dan­ger­ous on rigid trucks be­cause of their longer over­hang be­tween the rear wheels and back of the chas­sis.


Owner//Driver asked Job how Aus­tralia stacks up in­ter­na­tion­ally when it comes to heavy ve­hi­cle safety.

“If we com­pare Aus­tralia with the av­er­age of the world, Aus­tralia is do­ing very well,” he replies.

“But if we com­pare Aus­tralia with the av­er­age of high-in­come coun­tries, then not so well.

“There are many coun­tries and we see, for ex­am­ple, in Europe very ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion of driv­ing hours; of truck ac­cess; and very ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion by GPS of what trucks are do­ing, how fast they are go­ing, and who is driv­ing them.

“I think we can use more of that tech­nol­ogy in Aus­tralia to man­age th­ese kinds of risks, which are very sig­nif­i­cant risks for Aus­tralia.”

Owner//Driver com­mented to Job that it must be horrendous be­ing a truck driver in the sort of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries that ac­count for a lot of his work.

“I think if we look at our low­in­come coun­tries around the world, then trucks and buses add very sig­nif­i­cantly to the risk be­cause they are built in an un­for­giv­ing way; the ve­hi­cles col­lid­ing with them are un­for­giv­ing; and they’re very of­ten heav­ily over­loaded as well as poorly main­tained,” he says. “So if we look at low-in­come coun­tries then it’s a deep, deep chal­lenge.”


Dr Rebecca Ivers is an­other global road safety ex­pert and was one of the or­gan­is­ers of the con­fer­ence. She is a pro­fes­sor of pub­lic health at the

Univer­sity of Syd­ney and di­rec­tor of the in­jury di­vi­sion of the Ge­orge In­sti­tute for Global Health, which fore­casts that 20 mil­lion peo­ple will die from road in­juries in the next decade.

The first mea­sure for im­proved truck safety that springs to her mind is bet­ter re­straints for driv­ers.

“Truck driv­ers are still not wear­ing their seat­belts at the rate that the rest of the pop­u­la­tion are, and we need ma­jor cam­paigns to make sure that’s ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing,” Ivers says.

“The sec­ond chal­lenge is look­ing at the safety of the peo­ple in the light truck­ing in­dus­try, be­cause they are the ones who are ac­tu­ally start­ing to die at high rates as well.

“So, as we have the chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity leg­is­la­tion for the heavy trucks and the big busi­nesses, a lot of the work is ac­tu­ally be­ing de­volved down the chain to small busi­nesses and light trucks, and those peo­ple are less well recog­nised, that’s why we’re see­ing an in­crease in crashes over the past few years.”


Cur­rent pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralasian Col­lege of Road Safety is Lauch­lan McIn­tosh, and his top-of-the­head mea­sures for sav­ing lives are things like au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing sys­tems and lane de­par­ture warn­ings, which are avail­able in trucks th­ese days.

“What we’ve re­ally got to do is en­sure that all new trucks have the lat­est tech­nol­ogy for col­li­sion avoid­ance, and we have got to in­cen­tivise that be­cause not only are they smarter but they are also gen­er­ally en­vi­ron­men­tally bet­ter,” McIn­tosh says.

“So the more we can do that and the quicker we get the older trucks off the road, the bet­ter the re­sults we’ll get.”

Nick Kouk­oulas is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Aus­troads, which is the peak or­gan­i­sa­tion for Aus­trala­sia Aus­trala­sia’ss gov­ern­ment road and traf­fic agen­cies. “I think the life of the heavy ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tor in Aus­tralia is a tough one,” is the first thing Kouk­oulas says.

He adds: “I think the in­dus­try is one where there are a lot of driver fa­tigue is­sues which need to be ad­dressed.”

Kouk­oulas agrees with the com­ments of the other ex­perts, and also talks about the need for much bet­ter truck driver train­ing and li­cens­ing.

“I think the grad­u­ated li­cens­ing schemes need to be­come more aligned with all of the states and ter­ri­to­ries on what stage peo­ple can get heavy ve­hi­cle li­censes,” he says.

“It’s not con­sis­tent and I don’t think it’s good enough.

"Peo­ple can get a heavy ve­hi­cle li­cense es­ca­lated to the next level just through the car­riage of time, not through car­riage of be­ing able to dis­play that they’re ca­pa­ble of driv­ing a ve­hi­cle.”

Kouk­oulas gave as an ex­am­ple of what’s wrong with the sys­tem the now-in­fa­mous case from a cou­ple of years ago of the chaos-caus­ing B-dou­ble driver on Syd­ney’s M5 mo­tor­way who couldn’t re­verse the truck or dis­con­nect the trail­ers.

the as il­lus­trated in bar­rier de­sign from An en­ergy-dis­si­pat­ing Grze­bi­eta by pro­fes­sor Raphael pa­per pre­sented Ge­orge Rech­nitzer NSW and en­gi­neer the Univer­sity of

Road safety gu­rus: from left, Nick Kouk­oulas, Soames Job, Rebecca Ivers and Lauch­lan McIn­tosh. Be­hind them is the Rod Pilon Trans­port Truck­Right In­dus­try Ve­hi­cle, pi­loted to the Road Safety Con­fer­ence by Rod Han­nifey

Raphael Grze­bi­eta

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