Transport for NSW clarifies truck crash stats

By: Rob McKay

Response highlights varied approaches to use of data

Transport for NSW clarifies truck crash stats
Bernard Carlon says different data sets are involved


Transport for NSW has moved to give context to state roads minister Melinda Pavey’s use of fatality statistics in truck-related accidents.

In so doing, it has put in sharp relief the fragmented and uneven nature of state, federal and industry data on the issue of what weight of responsibility in multivehicle fatal accidents involving heavy trucks and other vehicles resides with motorists.

The figure most often quoted by the trucking industry and by state and federal politicians belongs to insurer NTI’s independent National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC).

In its NTI 2017 Accident investigation Report, NTARC reiterates the figure: "There were many disturbing multi vehicle fatal incidents investigated in this report that involved third party car and light vehicle drivers, some with passengers. Given our records are specific to the accident scene, and the time immediately following the incident, there may well have been further fatalities during and following the emergency evacuation and transportation of those seriously injured. Of these fatal accidents, the driver of the car or light vehicle was found to be totally responsible in 93% of the incidents."

However, in response to the ongoing truck accident spike debate in New South Wales, Pavey indicated this figure in her state was 60 per cent.

When asked about the source of her figure, a Pavey spokesman says: "Statistics from the NSW Centre for Road Safety show that in casualty crashes involving heavy trucks, the heavy truck is deemed to be the key vehicle in 38 per cent of fatal crashes and 60 per cent of serious injury crashes. 

"In the five years from 2012 to 2016, contributing factors to crashes involving heavy trucks include drug driving (20 per cent), excessive speed (16 per cent), fatigue (11 per cent), drink driving (4 per cent), seatbelt non-use (3 per cent). This includes both the heavy vehicle and other vehicles involved."

The NSW Centre for Road Safety (NSWCRS) is part of the state department, Transport for NSW.

Approached for an understanding of the discrepancy, NSWCRS executive director Bernard Carlon confirms a gap in comparability between the figures.

"The National Transport Insurance report is based on a different set of data to that used by the Centre for Road Safety," Carlon tells ATN.

"The crashes included in the NTI analysis are those where the total financial loss in a crash exceeds $50,000. The Centre for Road Safety’s crash data is based on police reported and investigated crashes.

"The data used in the NTI report is based on a survey of (606) crashes reported to NTI, but not all crashes involving heavy trucks in Australia. In NSW alone, in 2016, there were 1,008 casualty crashes involving heavy trucks.

"In addition, the fault determined in crashes reported by NTI is different to ‘key vehicle’ reported by the Centre for Road Safety.

"Key vehicle status is used to identify the movements of the vehicles involved in a crash. It is not a strict indicator of fault, however, in many circumstances it gives a reasonable indication of the responsible party.

"For example, in a head on crash, the key vehicle is the one on the wrong side of the road and in most circumstances will be the driver at fault, however, this is not guaranteed by the key vehicle status for example where someone is turning but the other vehicle is controlled by someone drink driving."

The NSWCRS figures show that between 2012 and 2017, heavy trucks have been the ‘key vehicle’ in between 19 and 28 fatal crashes.

Last year, there were the ‘key vehicle’ in 26 of a total of 68 fatal crashes, or 38 per cent, putting other vehicles at 62 per cent.

However, for serious injuries in 2016, that figure was 206 of 364, or 60 per cent, putting other vehicles at 40 per cent.

Meanwhile, the latest NSW heavy truck fatal crashes statistics show spikes for trucks registered interstate  for the 12 months to January 21.

For articulated trucks, the rise is 14 to 26; for heavy rigids, it is up four to six.

Details on those figures have been sought.


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