Fatal truck crashes fall by over 25 per cent in 2013

As the President of the Truck Industry Council, it is pleasing to review the latest Heavy Vehicle accident statistics published recently by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, BITRE, that show fatal truck accidents decreased by more than twenty five per cent last year.

This continues the year on year downward trend in fatal Heavy Vehicle accidents that we have seen over the past ten years. I should point out that the BITRE definition of a Heavy Vehicle is a truck over 4.5t GVM, so this includes basically all vehicles that the public recognise as trucks. What makes this result even more significant is that over the same ten-year period the road freight task has increased by over fifty per cent, yet the heavy vehicle road toll has fallen significantly.

The BITRE report showed that fatal accidents involving articulated trucks fell by 29.8 per cent in 2013 compared with fatalities in the previous year and over a three year period to December 2013, fatal articulated Heavy Vehicle accidents fell on average by 9.9 per cent. The report went on to detail fatal accidents involving rigid trucks, which fell by 19.8 per cent from 2012 to 2013, while on average over the previous three years, 2011 to 2013, fatalities involving rigid trucks fell by 4.2 per cent. Probably not unexpectedly, due to its large truck population and “through” truck movements, New South Wales had the highest rate of articulated vehicle fatalities, followed by Queensland and then Victoria. Rigid truck fatalities were in-line with the truck populations found in each State, with New South Wales having the highest number of rigid truck fatal accidents, then Victoria and Queensland.

There is no doubt that modern truck technologies and the safety systems found in today’s new trucks has contributed to this result. Many of these safety items have been introduced by our TIC members well ahead of mandated safety laws. Examples of this include, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), required by law on all new trucks from the first of January 2015, however ABS has been a standard feature on almost every new on-road truck sold since 2008. Front Under-run Protection Systems (FUPS), again were available on many trucks well ahead of becoming a legal requirement in January 2012. Other advanced safety features that can be found on many new trucks sold today are, Electronic Braking Systems (EBS), Electronic Stability, or anti-rollover Control (ESC) systems, Lane Departure Warning systems (LDW), Active Cruise Control (ACC), and the list goes on. Truck manufacturers are bringing these technologies to the Australia market now, well before they are even being discussed by our lawmakers. And while I applaud the members of TIC for their commitment to truck safety and the continuing reduction in the Heavy Vehicle road toll, I cannot help but feel that more could be done, much more.

The average age of the Australian truck fleet is 13.8 years, in the case of rigid trucks the average age is even older, now approaching 16 years. This is approximately double the truck age of countries that we would like to compare ourselves with in Europe, as well as the Americas and Japan. Since the GFC we have seen new truck purchase slow to a point that the freight task is growing at a rate greater than new trucks are being put on the road. This is resulting in the average age of Australia’s truck park getting older, not younger.

Unlike countries such as Japan, many in Europe and certain States in the USA, Australia has no incentives in place to make the purchase of a new safer, cleaner and greener trucks an economically attractive proposition. Without such incentives I can only see the Australian truck fleet, like you and I, getting older. But unlike our aging problem, I don’t believe that anyone has yet found the fountain of youth, the government does have options to address Australia’s truck aging reality, options such as those proposed in the TIC National Truck Plan.

I do hope that government realises the social and economic problems that an ageing road transport fleet will pose over the coming years and that they will consider incentives for the purchase of new, safer, cleaner and greener more environmentally friendly trucks – and that should see truck fatalities continue to fall for many years to come.

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