NTARC sets out safety research focus

Board chairman identifies high productivity vehicles, level crossings and stability controls as initial issues

By Rob McKay | September 1, 2011

The new board of the National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) has identified several major issues to focus on as it looks to generate "real change on the ground".

The AllRoads Safety Advisory Board Chairman, Associate Professor Kim Hassall, tells ATN that an examination of the safety case of high productivity vehicles (HPV) had been indentified following the board’s first two meetings in Perth and Brisbane.

The NTARC, which is backed by National Transport Insurance (NTI), would undertake a safety review of such HPV fleets as it can gain access to, with Hassall pointing out that the European experience had been that good safety outcomes were available given that there were fewer trucks were spending less time on road.

The interface between road and rail is another issue, with the Centre to examine the efficacy of a transmitting device that signals the presence of a train in a proximity stretching from 20 metres to 40km.

Hassall says the rail industry is looking at it keenly and that trials are underway in Queensland and Victoria.

"Theoretically, if you have enough trucks fit these things the unit price of the receiver technology that the truck could potentially be less than $100," he says.

Another focus on the agenda is the performance of vehicles fitted with electronic stability control devices.

"We thought at the last meeting that those three things were probably big enough for the next six to 12 months," Hassall says.

"The main aim is to send this stuff up the line to the regulators, the state and federal departments of transport and also to get it out into the academic research world as well."

Meanwhile, the Centre will look to shed light on questions that had proved difficult to isolate data on, such as the average age of trucks involved in accidents and the incident/accident rates for the different configurations of trucks.

"One of the positive things is not only the very specific network of operators that we can tap into because of the insurance relationships but the fact is that there is now in excess of 10 years’ worth of very, very good insurance company data that really isn’t in the public domain that we will get access to," Hassall says.

"I and others will be doing analysis on that."

Advisory board member and NTI Industry Relations National Manager Owen Driscoll says NTARC’s "cleanskin" nature and the reputation of its board members will work in its favour when making its road-safety recommendations.

He insists its charter would be to look at specific issues "rather than take on all the problems of the world", pointing to the very long lead times that reforms present and saying: "I think we started talking about fatigue reform in 1997.

"And when did we get it - 2008."

Driscoll expects the Centre to have the assets and personnel to respond quickly to issues and help save time.

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