Government lobbied on heavy vehicle emergency braking, driver licensing

ATA calls for emergency braking mandate to be expanded and ‘race to the bottom’ in driver training addressed

Government lobbied on heavy vehicle emergency braking, driver licensing
Bill McKinley


Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chief of staff Bill McKinley appeared before the Senate recently, speaking to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee into matters of road safety.

He addressed the progress of implementing autonomous emergency braking and improving driver training.

In particular, the ATA suggests electronic stability control (ESC) be mandatory on new vehicles over 4.5 tonnes, and to overhaul driver training and licensing standards to end the "race to the bottom" in Australia.


McKinley says the government must consider expanding the scope of mandated braking technology set for 2019 and beyond.

Read how ESC will be mandatory for new model heavy vehicle trailers weighing over 10 tonnes, from July 1, 2019, here

"Autonomous emergency braking is the next step in truck-braking technology", he says, delivering "a reduction in fatal crashes of up to 25 per cent and in serious injury crashes of up to 17 per cent".

"The infrastructure department is working on the regulatory impact statement (RIS) for mandating this technology, but there were significant problems with the electronic stability control RIS that need to be addressed before the emergency-braking process goes too far."

However, on mandating electronic stability control (ESC), McKinley says the requirements do not cover most rigid trucks.

The current requirements are projected to save 126 lives and avoid 1,101 serious injuries.

"If the requirements were extended to all trucks weighing more than 4.5 tonnes, an additional 22 lives could be saved and an extra 395 serious injuries could be avoided," he says.

"So, in the ATA's view, the department and the government must, first, revisit the decision not to require ESC for rigid trucks; second, base the RIS recommendation on emergency braking on achieving the highest number of lives saved and injuries avoided at reasonable cost; and, finally, use willingness-to-pay values for both the cost of fatalities and the cost of serious injuries. The ESC RIS understated the benefits of this safety technology because it did not value the cost of serious injuries appropriately."

The estimated cost to truck purchasers, should ESC be mandatory on vehicles over 4.5 tonnes, would be an extra $112 million over 35 years, or about $1,500 per truck and $525 per trailer.

"The cost is trivial compared to the benefits," McKinley concludes.


McKinley notes that the debate about truck driver training started in 2015 following coronial investigations into incidents of the time, and "the only conclusion I can reach is that this process of improving truck driver licensing and training needs to be speeded up," due to the "inadequate" standard in Australia.

McKinley references the Austroads Review of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework (Austroads is preparing a second report to identify how to increase national uniformity).

"This report really shows that the situation is every bit as bad as the committee thought and as bad as the ATA thought. It found that the current approach has created a race to the bottom."

It is noted that the existing heavy rigid licensing unit only covers only four out of 10 identified safety risks and the median length of time for training for a licence was 10 to 20 hours, when the Victorian government recommends 40 to 60 hours of training.

McKinley says the ATA is calling for improvement in increasing training hours and upgrading standards in areas of trucking beyond technical driving skills.

"The current training standards concentrate—to the extent that they concentrate on them—on basic technical skills in driving the vehicle, so changing gears, if it has manual gears, steering and all the rest of it. But driving a vehicle requires a much greater suite of skills that, at the moment, drivers mainly get through experience. They're very often not mentored, as you know.

"The ATA believes there needs to be national leadership on, firstly, upgrading the driver-licensing standards and increasing the emphasis on what you might call road craft —the ability to perceive hazards, for example, not just the technical control of the vehicle— and secondly, mandating minimum training hours for truck drivers.

"Trainers should be provided with support material they have to use, and there need to be standardised requirements for heavy-vehicle-driver trainers and assessors."

"I would add that a second cohort of skills needs to be on how to best use the technology that is coming into trucks, such as antilock brakes, electronic stability control, forward collision warning and so on—understanding what those alerts mean when they come up and what you as a driver need to do about them.

"Another area of standards that are not covered appropriately is, if you like, skills that go slightly beyond the basic technical skills of driving the truck … cover coupling, uncoupling and towing, managing fatigue or loading and unloaded."

Another factor mentioned be considered is "the recognition of some of the overseas licences" and drivers "coming from another place with a different standard".

The full Hansard transcript is available here.

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