Pro­tect­ing our driv­ers

Re­cent events in NSW serve a timely re­minder that truck safety is ev­ery road user’s con­cern

Australian Transport News - - Contents - Ge­off Crouch is chair of the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion

A timely re­minder that truck safety is ev­ery road user’s con­cern

In the year ended Septem­ber 2017, the num­ber of deaths in NSW from crashes in­volv­ing ar­tic­u­lated trucks such as semi-trail­ers in­creased from 29 to 54. That’s an in­crease of 86 per cent.

We have al­ready wit­nessed a num­ber of tragic crashes in­volv­ing trucks this year. These crashes are shock­ing.

It shows that gov­ern­ments and our in­dus­try still have more to do on road safety, be­cause even one death on our roads is un­ac­cept­able.

Pro­fes­sor Ann Wil­liamson from UNSW blamed the in­crease on driver fa­tigue and the way truck driv­ers are paid. Oth­ers have blamed the in­crease on the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment’s abo­li­tion of the Road Safety Re­mu­ner­a­tion Tri­bunal. These sug­ges­tions are not sup­ported by the ev­i­dence.

Although truck driv­ers work long hours, their work and rest times are tightly reg­u­lated.

NSW has the same driver fa­tigue laws as Vic­to­ria, Queens­land, South Aus­tralia and Tas­ma­nia.

Dur­ing the same year that deaths in NSW in­creased, the num­ber of deaths in ar­tic­u­lated truck crashes de­creased in Vic­to­ria (- 4.5 per cent), Queens­land (-14.8 per cent), South Aus­tralia (-23.1 per cent) and Tas­ma­nia (-80 per cent).

Re­mem­ber, these states have the same truck driver fa­tigue laws as NSW, but the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties went down, not up. We also know that most of the in­crease in deaths in NSW was in multi-ve­hi­cle crashes.

About 80 per cent of multi-ve­hi­cle crashes in­volv­ing trucks are not the fault of the truck driver. These crashes can­not be pre­vented by chang­ing the way truck driv­ers work or are paid.

To re­duce these crashes, gov­ern­ments need to press ahead with mea­sures that im­prove safety for ev­ery­one, such as build­ing bet­ter roads and bet­ter speed en­force­ment. There also needs to be a con­certed ef­fort to in­form road users about how to share the road safely with trucks. Too many car driv­ers do not un­der­stand the dan­gers of cut­ting in front of a truck or try­ing to over­take a turn­ing truck.

The ATA is do­ing its part. We op­er­ate a state- of-the-art road safety ex­hi­bi­tion, the Safety Truck, filled with in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays about how we can all share the road safely. More than 30,000 peo­ple go through the ex­hi­bi­tion each year.

We run road safety ad­ver­tise­ments across re­gional Aus­tralia, and our so­cial me­dia videos about road safety reached 309,000 peo­ple be­tween Christ­mas and New Year.

The in­dus­try has also sup­ported new truck safety laws that will come into force in mid-2018. Un­der these laws, truck­ing busi­nesses and pow­er­ful cus­tomers will have a strong new safety duty, backed by stiff penal­ties. Above all, the ter­ri­ble spike in deaths in NSW and the un­cer­tainty about why it hap­pened shows that Aus­tralia needs a bet­ter sys­tem for in­ves­ti­gat­ing road crashes.

These crashes will be the sub­ject of coro­nial in­quiries, but those in­quiries won’t oc­cur for years. When the coroners do make rec­om­men­da­tions, they are likely to be noted and then im­ple­mented late, if at all.

In con­trast, the tragic Syd­ney Sea­planes crash is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the spe­cial­ist safety in­ves­ti­ga­tors at the Aus­tralian Trans­port Safety Bureau. The ATSB re­leased its pre­lim­i­nary re­port on 31 Jan­uary and will re­lease a fi­nal re­port by the end of 2018. The ATSB tracks the progress of gov­ern­ments and in­dus­try in re­spond­ing to its rec­om­men­da­tions.

The ATA be­lieves that the ATSB’s role should be ex­tended to in­clude se­ri­ous crashes in­volv­ing trucks and, in fu­ture, au­to­mated ve­hi­cles. As the first step, the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment should in­vest $ 4.3 mil­lion over the next four years to es­tab­lish a na­tional data­base of coro­nial rec­om­men­da­tions about road safety and a na­tional data­base of se­ri­ous truck ac­ci­dents.

The ATSB is one of the world’s lead­ing safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions. It is re­spected glob­ally.

Aus­tralia has no ex­cuse not to ap­ply its ex­per­tise to road safety.

The ATA and our mem­bers will work with all stake­hold­ers to im­ple­ment poli­cies and rec­om­men­da­tions where there are demon­stra­ble safety out­comes, be­cause it is es­sen­tial that we all take more ac­tion to pre­vent tragedies on our roads.

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