Opinion: Heavy vehicle road safety gains welcome

By: Warren Clark

Fatal collision tragedies’ trajectory is on the right path

Opinion: Heavy vehicle road safety gains welcome
Warren Clark


The most recent statistics on heavy vehicle fatalities show that the industry has continued to improve its safety record. 

The statistics issued by the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) show that during the 12 months to the end of June 2020, 157 people died in crashes involving heavy trucks.

These included 95 deaths in crashes involving articulated trucks and 64 deaths in crashes involving heavy rigid trucks.

Whilst the numbers remain too high, the trends are encouraging. Fatalities in crashes involving heavy trucks decreased by 17.8 per cent when compared with the corresponding 12-month period one year earlier.

The large boost to improving trends was in large part attributable to improvement in heavy rigid fatalities.


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Fatalities in crashes involving heavy rigid trucks decreased by 30.4 per cent compared with the corresponding period one year earlier. 

For some time NatRoad has been concerned that the heavy rigid sector was not improving at the same pace as articulated heavy vehicles. But these statistics show a very welcome reversal to that trend.

During the pandemic, light vehicle traffic has been substantially reduced.  One statistic underlines that road safety is every road users’ responsibility and that light vehicle behaviour is often the problem.  

In 2017, the car was at fault in 83 per cent of fatal truck and car crashes. In 2019, where a truck and a car were involved in a multi-vehicle crash resulting in at least one fatality the car was at fault 80 per cent of the time.

The freight and logistics industry is an essential part of the national economy, where the sector accounts for approximately 10 per cent of gross domestic product. 

Dependence on heavy vehicles using the road will continue, as will the growth of the heavy vehicle fleet. 

And in relation to fatalities, the evidence shows that truck drivers are rarely at fault, so the latest improvement in fatalities underlines that point: where light vehicle traffic is reduced, heavy vehicle fatalities fall.  

It’s clear that Australia needs to embrace a better on-road culture, that respects that heavy vehicles have a place on the road. Passenger and light vehicle interaction with heavy vehicles needs a renewed focus by road safety regulators in preparation for a return to post-pandemic traffic volumes.

This should be addressed through public awareness campaigns and driver education programs for new and existing licence holders that governments should start working on now.

During the return to normality after the Covid-19 restrictions are eased, we all need to take better care on the roads as greater congestion is often a contributor to accidents and congestion is likely to increase as people reject public transport as a contributor to the spread of Covid-19.  

Driver education will be even more important as light vehicle traffic increases.  

There is a great deal that can be done to improve road safety. As road users, we need to work together to make Australian roads a safer place.

Until the number of fatal accidents involving trucks in Australia is zero, there is always more that we can do as an industry. 

Warren Clark is CEO of NatRoad


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