Technology no safety cure-all: Finemore

Calls for collaboration, rather than technology mandates, in any government safety strategy

Technology no safety cure-all: Finemore
Finemore believes the response to the NSW fatalities spike was lacking


Ron Finemore has counselled against embracing changes in technology as a cure-all for road safety, saying government and industry should work together to build on the successes they already have.

The perception that a technological solution, such as electronic work diaries, is the answer to reducing the road toll was "plainly wrong in many ways", Finemore says.

"The real challenge is for governments to work more cooperatively and genuinely with the industry to enhance and deliver more with initiatives like chain of responsibility, rather than just move onto the next ‘new best thing’," he adds.

Finemore made the comments in Ron Finemore Transport (RFT) Services’ submission to an inquiry on the use of technology in road safety run by the New South Wales Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety, also known as the Staysafe Committee.

The inquiry was launched late last year following a spate of heavy vehicle crashes on NSW roads.

Finemore says changes in industry culture, investment in roads and the positive impact of chain of responsibility legislation had led to a big decline in the road fatality rate across NSW over the past three years.

"With respect, there was always going to be a time when a spike occurred," he says.

"Our collective challenge now is to understand why this occurred and then react in a calm, managed and realistic way to continue the advances made in the last 20 years."

While he believed technical innovation could be used to improve road safety, it was more important to consider how it could be used effectively.

"We need to use the data to encourage a change in behaviour, not dismiss people who then go and work for someone else with the same unsafe habits," he says.

"RFT and others have to 'learn' and develop systems that help us effectively utilise the data so we can assess and address prospective fatigue and distraction incidents before they happen, rather than after."

Finemore, who is also chairman of the NSW Freight Advisory Council, often feels governments moved to mandate a technology as a way of solving the problem, rather than allowing industry to find ways to use that technology over time.

"In my view, it is critical that governments learn from the mistakes of the past where many unsuccessful attempts have been made to impose technological solutions on the road freight sector," he says.

"This only leads to the ‘good or better’ companies seeking to comply, companies just meeting minimum requirements rather than maximising the benefits, and those not wanting to comply obtaining another commercial advantage as they don’t have the associated costs of compliance.

"This also then leads to interest groups successfully pressuring Parliament to provide exemptions to requirements which further undermines the perceived benefit." 

Finemore believes Australia is "vastly more reliant on road freight than our overseas competitors – seven times more so than is the quoted fact.

"However, one of our failures has been moving too slowly to embrace concepts like Higher Mass Limits – this initiative introduces newer and safer vehicles and also reduces heavy vehicle numbers on our roads – and it improves efficiency for Australian producers."

"It still marvels me that the road freight sector performs so well and as safely as it does given the ever-increasing task it performs."


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