Improving safety on Australia’s roads

Road safety affects everyone as well, and it’s important to acknowledge that we have come a long way.

Figures prepared by the Centre for Automotive Safety Research for the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) show that the rate of fatal articulated truck crashes fell 80 per cent between 1982 and 2015, despite the enormous growth in the number of trucks on the road.

But with the projected increase in the freight task in the years ahead, we need to see continued, major safety improvements.

It will not happen on its own. Governments and our industry need to continue taking deliberate, effective action to improve road safety, and when you consider the fiscal restraint facing governments, we’ll need to make every dollar count.

In its 2015 major accident investigation report, Australia’s leading truck insurer, NTI, found that the other vehicle was at fault in 84 per cent of the fatal multi-vehicle accidents involving the trucks in its sample.

To further reduce the number of accidents, it is clear there needs to be a concerted effort to inform road users nationally about how to share the road safely with trucks.

When the Australian Government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), it redirected the funding to practical safety measures, with $3.9 million in funding per year from 2016–17 to 2019–2020.

The ATA believes that the Government should retarget this funding in its 2017–18 Budget, to be delivered on 9 May.

From 2017–18, this funding should be national rather than solely allocated to the NHVR – Western Australia and the NT should get a share.

In addition, the funding should be used to deliver a communication program about how road users can share the road safely with trucks.

In its response to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) report on the effects of the RSRT payments order, the Government agreed in principle with a recommendation to consider a national communications campaign to encourage motorists to share the road safely with trucks. In 2017–18, the Government should deliver on its agreement.
Investing in better roads is also critical for improving road safety. Austroads has reported on in-depth crash studies that show the road is a causation factor in about 30 per cent of all crashes, while it affects the severity of 100 per cent of crashes.

The Government was re-elected in 2016 with a commitment to maintain funding from 2019–20 onwards for road safety investment programs like the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, Roads to Recovery and the Black Spot Program.

The Government must deliver on this commitment.

With a view to the longer term, the Government should also announce an immediate review and consideration of establishing an independent and hypothecated road fund. If designed well, a road fund could enhance the independence and transparency in the selection of road projects, maximising the safety improvements from the existing roads funding commitment. In other words, a road fund would make every dollar count.

The ATA made all these points in our pre-budget submission to the Federal Treasury. You can read the full submission and find out some of the other things we do for our members at the ATA website.

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