In­vest­ing in safety fea­tures has the po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the risk of personal harm to other road users

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In 2009 the im­pact of road crashes (apart from the im­pact to so­ci­ety) was es­ti­mated to be cost­ing the Aus­tralian econ­omy $15 bil­lion per year, in 2017 this has in­creased to ap­prox­i­mately $27 bil­lion per year. With the num­ber of ve­hi­cles on the road in­creas­ing every year then this fig­ure is ex­pected to con­tinue to in­crease.

In stud­ies done by the NSW and Fed­eral Gov­ern­ments it was found that heavy ve­hi­cles ac­count for around 2.5 per­cent of reg­is­tered ve­hi­cles and travel only about 7 per­cent of Ve­hi­cle Kilo­me­tres trav­elled. The un­for­tu­nate fact is that around 16 per­cent of all road fa­tal­i­ties in­volve a heavy ve­hi­cle and 80 per­cent of those killed are light ve­hi­cle oc­cu­pants, mo­tor­cy­clist, cy­clists or pedes­tri­ans, with light ve­hi­cles/pas­sen­ger cars con­tribut­ing up to 90 per­cent of those fa­tal­i­ties.

As we’ve found with the sta­tis­tics above, crashes be­tween heavy ve­hi­cles and light/pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles gen­er­ally pro­duce a more se­vere out­come for the oc­cu­pants of the light ve­hi­cle, sim­ply due to the large mass dis­crep­ancy of the two ve­hi­cles.

This along with the fact that the ride height of a heavy ve­hi­cle is gen­er­ally higher than the bon­net or boot of a light ve­hi­cle, the out­come of a col­li­sion is that sig­nif­i­cant in­tru­sion can be ex­pected and al­most cer­tain in­jury to the oc­cu­pants of the light ve­hi­cle.

Side im­pact col­li­sions and un­der­runs also con­trib­ute to a sig­nif­i­cant amount of the fa­tal­i­ties men­tioned above. Sec­ond to the ini­tial im­pact, quite of­ten there is a like­li­hood of fur­ther col­li­sions oc­cur­ring be­cause of the loss of con­trol of the heavy ve­hi­cle. This can be be­cause of dam­age to the steer­ing or braking com­po­nents by the smaller ve­hi­cle.

Now while the ma­jor­ity of the time the party at fault is not at­trib­uted to the heavy ve­hi­cle, it does need to be recog­nised that steps can and should be put in place to re­duce the fa­tal­i­ties be­cause of a col­li­sion with a heavy ve­hi­cle.

One such mea­sure is to install un­der­run pro­tec­tion de­vices to the front, rear or side of a truck/trailer. These are de­signed to en­gage cars safety sys­tems dur­ing a crash and re­duce the de­gree of in­tru­sion into a car’s pas­sen­ger com­part­ment.

Well-de­signed truck un­der­run pan­els are a de­vice that can help pro­tect a pas­sen­ger car, or vul­ner­a­ble road user such as a mo­tor­cy­cle, bi­cy­cle or pedes­trian when a col­li­sion oc­curs and are de­signed to re­duce in­jury sever­ity.

As a pas­sive safety de­vice, un­der­run pro­tec­tion will not re­duce the num­ber of crashes in­volv­ing heavy ve­hi­cles and lighter ve­hi­cles. How­ever, they can go a long way to re­duce the sever­ity if a crash does oc­cur.

The eco­nomic ben­e­fit of this re­duc­tion in crash sever­ity sub­stan­tially ex­ceeds the cost of fit­ting them to heavy ve­hi­cles. The costs range from $1000 to $6000 for a pack­age of un­der­run pro­tec­tion for the front, sides and rear of a heavy ve­hi­cle and al­though the ben­e­fit may not be seen im­me­di­ately, it is ac­crued over the life­time the de­vice. A small in­vest­ment for a po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the risk of personal harm to oth­ers.

An­other safety fea­ture that can be in­stalled is Elec­tronic Braking Sys­tems (EBS). Over the last decade there have been ad­vances in An­tilock­ing Braking Sys­tems (ABS) with the de­vel­op­ment of the EBS, which in­te­grates au­to­matic trac­tion con­trol and sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem fea­tures to give us the next gen­er­a­tion of braking con­trol.

This next gen­er­a­tion in braking con­trol comes with im­prove­ments in braking re­sponse times, im­proved brake dis­tri­bu­tion/bal­ance and a feed­back sys­tem that mod­u­lates braking force to max­i­mum ef­fec­tive­ness. The EBS al­lows trucks and trailers to com­mu­ni­cate and can both de­tect and con­trol what is hap­pen­ing with each in­di­vid­ual set of wheels. The func­tion man­ages the amount of braking ap­plied for the load be­ing car­ried, also en­sur­ing that no wheel or set of wheels are over braked.

The type of com­po­nents and there­fore the level of func­tion­al­ity varies de­pend­ing on which model is fit­ted, how­ever once an EBS is fit­ted it also pro­vides a plat­form for other ad­vanced braking fea­tures to be added. One such fea­ture is Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol (ESC) which re­duces en­gine torque and (if re­quired) ap­plies braking to cor­rect over­steer, un­der­steer or roll over. ESC au­to­mat­i­cally acts to pre­vent any po­ten­tial loss of con­trol move­ments to the ve­hi­cle.

It should be noted that com­mon sense and the laws of physics still ap­ply. Au­tho­rised in­stal­la­tion and main­te­nance of the sys­tem is re­quired, and the driver must still drive to the pre­vail­ing con­di­tions and not rely on en­hanced safety sys­tems to man­age their driv­ing be­hav­iour.

A third op­tion for making the road net­work safer and giv­ing heavy ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tors tools to op­er­ate safer and more ef­fi­ciently is the In-Ve­hi­cle Mon­i­tor­ing Sys­tems (IVMS). Whilst IVMS are not new to the trans­port in­dus­try, it is a best prac­tice sys­tem for ve­hi­cle and driver man­age­ment. These sys­tems are di­rectly aimed at the Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety of driv­ers.

One way to do this is through the in­stal­la­tion of ex­ter­nal cam­eras on the ve­hi­cle. Ex­ter­nal cam­eras will mon­i­tor load­ing and un­load­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, in ad­di­tion to the pro­vid­ing the vis­i­bil­ity of the road con­di­tions and driver be­hav­iours when in tran­sit. These ex­ter­nal cam­eras pro­vide on­go­ing mon­i­tor­ing of line­haul ve­hi­cles, and de­liv­ery and pick up ac­tiv­i­ties, so as to pro­vide and de­velop fur­ther op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove safety out­comes.

In trans­port op­er­a­tions, IVMS pro­vides fleet man­agers with ac­cess to fleet per­for­mance data, which in turn al­lows for optimisation of jour­neys pro­vid­ing greater op­er­a­tions ef­fi­ciency, but more im­por­tantly it can be used to mon­i­tor the safety of driv­ers, par­tic­u­larly with fa­tigue risk in those driv­ers op­er­at­ing ve­hi­cles for long pe­ri­ods of time.

Black Box Con­trol, Pin­point, TCS, Ctrack and Tele­trac Nav­man are the five cer­ti­fied providers op­er­at­ing in Trans­port Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Aus­tralia’s In­tel­li­gent Ac­cess Pro­gram (IAP). The IAP is a na­tional trans­port ini­tia­tive which en­ables trans­port op­er­a­tors and road au­thor­i­ties to iden­tify high load and high pro­duc­tiv­ity ve­hi­cles to travel on ap­proved road net­works.

The IAP was de­vel­oped by Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ments in re­sponse to cur­rent and emerg­ing chal­lenges of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and an ever-in­creas­ing de­mand on the avail­abil­ity and safety of the road net­work. In­creases in freight vol­umes have been higher than truck travel growth rates be­cause of the grow­ing trend to­wards util­is­ing larger ve­hi­cles with greater pay­loads. Heav­ier, ar­tic­u­lated trucks are re­plac­ing small rigid trucks, so there are new chal­lenges in road safety aris­ing. This in­no­va­tive pro­gram aims to ben­e­fit trans­port op­er­a­tors, road own­ers and the com­mu­nity at large.

The IVMS GPS track­ing soft­ware can dis­play speed lim­its, up­date driv­ers of haz­ards, com­mu­ni­cate with the driver, as well as warn the driver or alerts such as speed­ing, seat belt not fas­tened, hand­brake not en­gaged, doors open whilst mov­ing, etc. The soft­ware can also be in­cor­po­rated into main­te­nance sched­ules by gath­er­ing data such as ve­hi­cle odome­ter read­ings. IVMS can also be used to gen­er­ate re­ports for fa­tigue man­age­ment and cor­po­rate com­pli­ance.

In road trans­port the chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity re­quire­ments now mean that ev­ery­one in­volved in the road trans­port sup­ply chain (in­clud­ing the driver and op­er­a­tor) can be held re­spon­si­ble for breaches of road laws and may be legally li­able. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the IAP and be­ing mon­i­tored for com­pli­ance is one way owner-driv­ers can demon­strate to cus­tomers they are com­mit­ted to meet­ing their chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity obli­ga­tions. Sim­i­larly, cus­tomers may de­cide that us­ing an owner-driver be­ing mon­i­tored un­der the IAP is a way for them to show their own com­mit­ment to meet­ing chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity obli­ga­tions and their com­mit­ment to safety for both them­selves and other road users.

Ex­ter­nal Cam­era in­stalled on side mir­ror

Heavy ve­hi­cle side un­der run

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