Friday, July 22, 2011

Australian Freight Truck Fatalities Down Significantly says ATA

Truck Safety Improves Dramatically According to Study
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA - The fatal crash rate for articulated freight trucks like semitrailers has improved more than 60 per cent since 1982, the Australia Trucking Association (ATA) Chairman David Simon said today at the release of a major new report on heavy vehicle road safety from the Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR) at the University of Adelaide. 

Mr. Simon stated that the report confirmed the industry was steadily getting safer.

“The number of fatal crashes involving articulated trucks has remained relatively constant since 1991, but there has been a huge increase in the number of trucks on the road at the same time,” he said, adding that: “When the figures are adjusted to take this increase into account, they show a 60 per cent improvement in the fatal crash rate involving articulated trucks since 1982.”

The report concludes that the most significant gains in truck safety during this period were due to broad road safety initiatives that have improved safety for all road users, particularly improvements to the Australian road network, reduced speed limits and improvements in vehicle design.

The study brings together a host of information from many diverse studies over time so as to provide definitive conclusions to the research.

“This research has been published in a host of different academic journals, reports and studies. It is often difficult to find, particularly for people in the industry who need guidance about how to make their businesses safer,” Simon said.

“The report consolidates 280 publications from CASR’s extensive road safety library and a series of academic databases. It is a single, ready reference guide to truck safety research, and the ATA is releasing it for everyone to use as our contribution to the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety.”

According to the CASR report there are four key areas that the organisation is recommending receive priority research: fatigue, seat belts, road design and traffic management, and vehicle design and technology.

Within these areas, the CASR recommends more research into the therapies and treatments for sleep apnoea, a suspected major cause of driver fatigue-related accidents; further research into road design and traffic management, including an assessment of the safety benefits of the truck-only lanes and speed restrictions that are now being put in place on some routes; and further improvements in the crashworthiness of truck cabins and to truck designs to reduce a vehicle’s impact on other road users in a crash.

In addition, the report refers to estimates that only four to 30 per cent of truck drivers wear seat belts. Increasing their seat belt use would prevent 37 per cent of truck occupant fatalities, 36 per cent of serious injuries, and 22 per cent of slight injuries.

“The report recommends further research into the effectiveness of installing seat belt reminder warning lights in trucks, as well as seat belt interlocks,” Simon said.

“There also needs to be more work done on seat belt comfort. We know that many drivers do not wear seat belts because they are uncomfortable and feel restrictive, particularly when not integrated into the seat.”

The ATA states that they will continue to work closely with members of the trucking industry, government and vehicle developers to continue to reduce fatalities in freight vehicle crashes.

“Although the industry’s safety record has improved markedly, it won’t be good enough until every truck driver and motorist gets home safely after every trip,” Mr. Simon said.