Opinion: Tackling road safety in action

By: Melissa Weller

Supporting action and creative thinking needed on deadly issue

Opinion: Tackling road safety in action
Melissa Weller


The latest Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics heavy vehicle crash statistics show a dramatic fall in fatal truck crashes in 2018, but this is no cause for celebration. 154 people lost their lives from 136 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks.

That is 154 too many.

We now need to take a step back and ask the question: why? Why are these fatalities occurring? What role can we play in reducing the road toll?

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is standing up for safety and will lead the industry on this journey.

In April 2018, the ATA ran an industry-first fatigue hackathon. Our FatigueHACK challenged the way the trucking industry looked at fatigue management and pushed for something our community wasn’t all too comfortable with.

We engaged Australia’s smartest innovators to create new technologies, designs and products that would help the industry and our regulators stay ahead of technological change.

Read about the ATA's support for the industry's future leaders, here

Our hackathon teams worked closely with professional drivers and trucking operators to disrupt the current thinking of how we view fatigue and developed innovative solutions.

It’s been a year since our FatigueHACK and we now have two prototypes out in the world.

But FatigueHACK wasn’t just about the development of prototypes. It was as much about shining a light on fatigue. Unless we explore every possible means of improving industry safety, we cannot say that we have done enough.

We need leadership and action if we are to see real change to safety outcomes. In a recent submission to the Australian Government’s Inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS), the ATA made 19 recommendations – a call to action for the next government, whoever that happens to be after the election.

The government needs to make a commitment to practical safety measures including the mandating of advanced emergency braking systems for new trucks. There needs to be an understanding that measures such as fixed rates are not the answer to our safety challenges.

We know that fixing prices does not work because it has been tried before.

Last time it delivered financial hardship, increased debt, uncertainty and significant stress on small trucking businesses.

It increased costs by 20 to 30 per cent, making small businesses uncompetitive.

The ATA’s practical recommendations to the NRSS included solutions such as mandating Electronic Stability Control for all new trucks and trailers, enabling the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to carry out no-blame safety investigations for truck crashes, and the provision of more quality rest areas around the country.

As research shows, about 80 per cent of fatal multi-vehicle crashes involving a truck are not the fault of the truck driver. This highlights the critical need to improve the education of light vehicle drivers about how to share the road safely with trucks.

The ATA is doing its part. Delivered through the Volvo ATA Safety Truck, our well-researched, evidence-based education campaign will target those who are over-represented in the crash statistics:16-25 year olds.

The truck and campaignwill become a research project itself, to affirm methodologies and gather important evidence.

We are making a firm investment sothis knowledge and evidence can be shared with the industry and road safety stakeholders to take a strong approach in making change. We’re investing in real research to lead and encourage others.

But we cannot do it alone.

We want the Australian government to implement an ambitious ‘Towards Zero’ safety culture. We want to see the establishment of national agency that will strengthen the national focus to improve road safety by providing independent policy advice.

This agency should lead change and take action. It should monitor the NRSS and be appropriately funded to administer practical, non-infrastructure safety measures like increased education and positive behavioural change projects.

Road safety is a shared responsibility between everyone in the community, and we must all stand up and play our part.

More information about the Volvo ATA Safety Truck project can be found at: www.truck.net.au/safetytruck

Melissa Weller is safety and skills adviser at the Australian Trucking Association

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