VicRoads sees truck crash fault rate rise

Roads authority questions safety culture after spike in fatalities

VicRoads sees truck crash fault rate rise
Peter Ervin


Victorian roads and traffic authority VicRoads has contradicted findings that usually less than 20 per cent of fatal incidents involving heavy vehicles were the fault of the truck driver, saying its figures had more than doubled this year.

VicRoads Transport Safety Services (TSS) spokesman Peter Ervin presided over a heated discussion on heavy vehicle compliance at the NatRoad Connect event, estimating that almost half the fatal crashes – for those in which suicide had been ruled out – were caused by the truck driver.

"Usually about 20 per cent of heavy vehicle accidents resulting in a fatality are caused by the truck – the other 80 per cent is caused by the car – that has been true until this year," he says.

"As of this year, it is 47 per cent caused by the truck, we think.

"That’s on the data we have so far.

"That could change with some of the Coroners inquests but for some reason it’s gone up this year."

Ervin noted the possible causes were three-fold: "Lack of driver training, overseas drivers, poor standard of drivers.

"It must be awfully hard for companies to get good drivers these days.

"We see these guys on the side of the road and they can barely drive, let alone load a truck, and their safety culture is not always as good as it could be, we think."

He cited an example of a driver intercepted recently who had driven "30 hours in the last two days – and he had actually recorded that [16-17-hour work days] in his diary".

Last year VicRoads said it was targeting the 'direct income' of noncompliant firms

One particular spike involved side impacts at interceptions, though in that case 90 per cent were due to cars disobeying red lights or stop signs.

However, his comments about driver responsibility, saying truck drivers could do more to avoid incidents not initiated by them, drew a stern response from the audience.

"Please tell your drivers, family, kids to be careful when you come to an intersection," Ervin says.

"Don’t assume people will stop or give way, still have a look both ways – it might save a life.

"There are a lot of people who were in the right who are now in cemeteries.

"[Truck drivers] might not have caused it but they might have been able to take some action to make that crash less severe, or they might have been able to avoid it all if they were alert and not on the phone – even though the car driver might have caused the accident."

One audience member noted trucks were nothing like cars "that you can throw around and take evasive action with – that's the problem".


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