A national scheme encouraging innovative and higher productivity vehicles has the potential to reduce public concerns regarding freight vehicles on the road according to a research paper released by the National Transport Commission (NTC).
The NTC commissioned the report, entitled Understanding public perceptions of road freight, to explore perceptions of heavy vehicles amongst the Australian public.
The report also gauged reactions to the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme – a key Council of Australian Government’s reform that allows the heavy vehicle industry to achieve higher productivity and safety through innovative truck and bus design.
The research was undertaken by independent market research agency Synovate, and involved interviews with 1500 motorists from urban and regional Australia. It revealed that freight movement and its importance to the daily lives of Australians and the Australian economy do not predominantly distress the public.
‘Top of mind’ concern is raised over the number of vehicles on the road, raising an ever-present fear of being involved in an accident. This fear is not solely related to the number of freight vehicles, but primarily to others’ behaviour while driving.
Nonetheless, the size of a vehicle has significant impact on drivers’ emotional condition. In particular, B-doubles raise concern as they have an increased braking path and cause road infrastructure damage. They also require more time to overtake, making the general public feel more vulnerable when trying to pass them on an open road. Therefore 56 percent welcome Performance Based Standards (PBS) as a possible solution to lasting concern with freight vehicles, as it promotes safe road performance.
Yet 37 percent are less concerned about freight traffic and do not see a need to mend current regulations, whilst 7 percent do not see any real problems and reject PBS, arguing that the cost of the project will be passed down to consumers, and that PBS approved vehicles will still damage roads and bridges.
Synovate concludes that the general public is not overly ‘truck conscious’ and has low awareness of PBS. Although the public cannot differentiate PBS vehicles from non-compliant ones, “it is very positive to the messages on increased safety, better economic performance and less effect on the environment.” The biggest concern, however, is driver behavior.