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One of the world’s top experts on road safety reckons Australia has to get more technology into and onto its trucks


Truck under-run protection systems and in-cab black boxes are necessary if Australia wants to improve its heavy vehicle safety, says a global road safety leader.

Dr Soames Job is head of the Global Road Safety Facility at the World Bank, and was one of the many eminent safety experts at the most recent Australasian Road Safety Conference in Canberra.

“Trucks are dramatically over involved in deaths on Australian roads on a per vehicle basis,” points out Dr Job, an Australian road safety professor and former president of the Australasian College of Road Safety.

“That’s not to say that the truck drivers are at fault but trucks are an extremely unforgiving object to hit when another driver or another road user makes a mistake. I think we need to be doing more to address that. We need more of the technology aimed at protecting not just the truck drivers where we can also make improvement, but the road users around (them) who cop a very unforgiving outcome if they make a mistake near a truck.

“I mean better protection within cars but also better protection on the trucks for road users around them for when there is a collision.”

Dr Job rates as the number one measure for having more forgiving trucks as being front, side and rear under-run protection.

“Good technology in underrun protection is going to save a lot of lives in Australia,” he says.

Indeed, an average of 12 people a year are killed in Australia in accidents where they run into the back of trucks alone. That sobering statistic was contained in a paper by Professor Raphael Grzebieta from the University of NSW and engineer George Rechnitzer, delivered at the conference.

It’s not hard to guess the horrific injuries which occur when the bonnet of a car goes underneath the back of a truck, and the back of the truck hits the windscreen and occupants’ heads before car occupant protection devices activate. These devices include car crumple zones, frontal air bags and pre-tensioning seat belts.

Lack of rear under-run protection is more dangerous on rigid trucks, because of their longer overhang between the rear wheels and back of the chassis.


Black box fan

ATN asked Dr Job how Australia stacks up internationally when it comes to heavy vehicle safety.

“If we compare Australia with the average of the world, Australia is doing very well,” he replies. “But if we compare Australia with the average of high income countries, then not so well.

“There are many countries and we see for example in Europe very effective regulation of driving hours; of truck access; and very effective regulation by GPS of what trucks are doing, how fast they are going and who is driving them.

“I think we can use more of that technology in Australia to manage these kinds of risks which are very significant risks for Australia.”

ATN commented to Dr Job that it must be horrendous being a truck driver in the sort of developing countries which account for a lot of his work.

“I think if we look at our low income countries around the world then trucks and buses add very significantly to the risk because they are built in an unforgiving way; the vehicles colliding with them are unforgiving; and they’re very often heavily overloaded as well as poorly maintained,” he says.

“So if we look at low income countries then it’s a deep, deep challenge.”




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