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Truck safety tips from the experts

Here’s what some of the nation’s leading experts on road safety rate as the most important ways to improve truck safety in Australia


The most recent Australasian Road Safety conference saw hundreds of road safety professionals gather in Canberra.

We’ve already reported on the auditorium session devoted to heavy vehicles, but we also pulled a few experts aside during a morning  break for 10 minutes and asked for their top-of-the-head recommendations for increased heavy vehicle safety in Australia.


Seat belts

Dr Rebecca Ivers is a 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 in the next decade 20 million people will die from road injuries.

The first measure for improved truck safety that springs to her mind is better restraint 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,” says Prof Ivers.

“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 and that’s why we’re seeing an increase in crashes over the past few years.”


Collision avoidance and driver training

Current president of the Australasian College of Road Safety is Lauchlan McIntosh, and his top-of-the-head measure for saving lives are things like autonomous emergency braking systems and lane departure warning 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’s 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.




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