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