Heavy rigid fatal crashes finally trend downward

BITRE statistics for December quarter show NSW and Victoria leading charge

Heavy rigid fatal crashes finally trend downward
The latest BITRE chart


The rate of fatal crashes involving heavy rigid trucks has declined over the past year after threatening to overtake articulated trucks, the latest Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) heavy vehicle fatal crash statistics show.

The BITRE chart shows a parallel decline from the 2017 December quarter.

For heavy rigids, this was the first decline since 2010.

Fatal crashes involving heavy rigid trucks: decreased by 26.1 per cent compared with the corresponding period one year earlier (from 88 to 65 crashes) decreased by an average of 1.5 per cent per year over the three years to December 2018.

Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks: decreased by 15.2 per cent compared with the corresponding period one year earlier (from 92 to 78 crashes). decreased by an average of 7.8 per cent per year over the three years to December 2018.

Compared to 2017, there has been a 20.5 per cent decrease in fatal crashes involving heavy trucks a a whole. (from 171 to 136 crashes) decreased by an average of 6.1 per cent per year over the three years to December 2018.

Read about articulated trucks’ earlier fatal truck crash statistics fall, here

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) welcomed the news. 

"The data from BITRE shows a dramatic decrease in the number of fatal truck crashes," ATA chair Crouch says. 

A recent multi-agency operation led by WA Main Roads in partnership with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), South Australian Police and Department of Transport WA has shown a high level of legal compliance by operators, the peak body notes. 

"The operation on the SA-WA border found 91 per cent of trucking operators travelling interstate to be compliant with the Heavy Vehicle National Law," Crouch says. 

"The results of this operation, and the crash statistics, highlight the industry’s improving safety and compliance record." 

Crouch states that there is still much work to be done. 

"Until we reach a point where there are zero fatalities and injuries on our roads, the ATA will continue to advocate for practical safety solutions," Crouch says. 

The ATA continues to call for measures that include: 

  • enabling the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to provide independent, no-blame safety investigations for road crashes involving heavy vehicles
  • increasing the quantity and quality of truck driver rest areas
  • mandating autonomous emergency braking for all new trucks
  • improving truck driver training and licensing systems. 

"The ATA is continuing to work hard to reach our goal of zero fatal and serious injury crashes," Crouch says. 

"Last week we received $400,000 from the Australian government for the refurbishment of the Volvo ATA Safety Truck, a road safety initiative that educates young drivers and vulnerable road users about how to share the road safely with trucks."

The 12 months ended in the most recent December quarter was the best for heavy rigids, at 65, since 2013’s 61 and the best in a decade for articulated truckss, at 78, beating the previous year’s 92.

Total fatalities for the two segments were 89 and 74 respectively.

The year saw New South Wales and Victoria shoulder most of the reduction work.

For heavy rigids, totals were down 16 per cent and 47 per cent, from 19 to 10 respectively.

For articulated trucks, the reductions were from 39 to 23 and 20 to 12.

However, Queensland went the other way, with rise of 26 per cent for heavy rigids from 11 to 15 and a 47 per cent rise for articulate trucks from 17 to 25.

Also of note was the steep decline in heavy rigid fatal crashes in Western Australia, from 16 to 5.

Research plea

National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) also notes the improvements and reiterates its call for more research into the trends.

"The overall trend is in the right direction but there is a need to better understand why improvements in the fatality rate for rigid trucks is plateauing," NatRoad president Allan Thornley says.

"The path to a better road safety outcome is paved by evidence-based research so we need to know a lot more about the causes of heavy vehicle fatal crashes. 

"The Government has underway a review of who should be responsible for road safety in Australia.  That is a step we applaud.

"Government must invest in research that helps the heavy vehicle industry to better understand the fatality rate.

"Government agencies across Australia must make a commitment to the more effective collection of and easier access to information provided by accident investigations. 

"At the same time greater scrutiny of the causes of those accidents is needed, as well as education of light vehicle drivers who are at fault in more than 80% of fatalities involving a heavy vehicle.

"A government agency such as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau or a newly created road safety body should be given power to promptly and fully investigate serious truck accidents.

"There is a need to share the results and recommendations publicly so that all industry participants can take the appropriate action to reduce the road toll. That role should also encompass better research on trends and causal factors. 

"Currently both data and research are inadequate to formulate benchmarks for heavy vehicle incidents.  That must change and a government agency that is created or re-structured must take on that task.

"NatRoad has a deep commitment to improving road safety. Measures which will help the community achieve fewer road fatalities must be introduced and they must be based on proper analysis and a deeper understanding of what is behind the trends the recent statistics highlight."


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