Local silver lining in international truck-related deaths stats

By: Rob McKay

Australia amongst leaders in heavy commercial vehicles but poor otherwise

Local silver lining in international truck-related deaths stats
Australia has done well recently in lowering truck crash fatalities


The nation’s performance in reducing fatalities involving heavy trucks in the six years to 2016 puts it in the top four advanced countries, even as it lags badly in total road deaths  improvement for the period.

The insight follows the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics’ (BITRE’s) recent release of its statistical report, International road safety comparisons 2016, which is supported by figures from other countries in the International Road Traffic and Accident Database’s (IRTAD’s) own Road Safety Annual Report 2018.

BITRE’s report shows total road death per 100,000 people in 31 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries is 5.32 – just two places above the OECD median figure of 5.38.

That puts Australia at 15th, one below the country that it most closely resembles physically and economically – Canada, with 5.23 – but ahead of New Zealand (6.97) and the US (11.59).

Find BITRE’s most recent fatal crash statistics for Australia, here

BITRE’s report did not include figures for heavy vehicles as the measure for heavy truck mass IRTAD uses differs and the local organisation is leery of potential inaccuracy.

It notes that IRTAD’s definition of "heavy goods vehicle" is notionally a vehicle of 3.5 tonne gross vehicle mass (GVM) or above; for Australia this is 4.5 tonne GVM or above. Actual reporting definition may also vary by country and data is not available for all IRTAD countries for all years. For example, the US heavy vehicle comparison is 2016 compared to calendar year 2010 rather than a starting two-year average it otherwise uses to make the comparison possible with the figures available.

"Due to a lack of comparable data for other countries it is not possible to provide reliable comparisons for Australian truck fatality statistics," BITRE tells ATN.

"This may become feasible in the future if more detailed data becomes available."

Despite that, BITRE has furnished IRTAD figures showing percentage changes in road deaths involving heavy goods vehicles and all road deaths for 18 selected IRTAD countries for 2016 compared with the 2010-2012 average.

Australia was 16 per cent down for trucks but only 1 per cent down for all road deaths.

For trucks, the performance was beaten only by smaller land-mass nations: Finland (-19.8 per cent); South Korea (-27.3 per cent); New Zealand (-34.8 per cent).

Canada lagged with -7.6 per cent but was still ahead of the US (+9.5 per cent).

What should give Australian governments pause for contemplation, given industry protests at the tenor of public statements related to short-term spikes, is that the percentage change for all road deaths, dominated by cars, has barely budged.

For Australia, it is -1 per cent, the third least-impressive performance after New Zealand -1.4 per cent and the US (+13.2 per cent).

The BITRE report can be found here


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