Queensland floods highlight the importance of freight safety

Gary Bone, General Manager of Volvo Trucks, says the recent flooding in Queensland and Victoria has reinforced to people just how important road transport really is to their daily lives.

“Big modern cities are almost completely reliant upon heavy road transport. For many people in Brisbane, this is the first time they’ve ever seen their supermarket shelves empty. Most of the time we take it for granted that fruit and vegetables will magically appear, we don’t stop to consider what the trucks drivers have to do to get it there.

“Getting the trucks to the right place at the right time requires a lot of planning, and lot of attention on the part of the driver. But what’s a driver’s main concern? Arriving on time? No. A driver’s most important consideration is safety.”

In days of rising fuel prices and tight deadlines you could be forgiven for thinking that trip times and kilometres per litre were more important. So how do safety considerations affect the way a driver manages his truck?

“Well, let’s say you have to deliver a full load of groceries from a distribution centre to a city supermarket. You’ve got to contend with cars, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians, traffic lights, roundabouts, level crossings, restricted routes, low bridges-the number and variety of safety risks is immense. It’s not enough to deliver on time using the minimum fuel, you have to do it without endangering anyone, including yourself. This affects every decision the driver makes along the way.”

“This is why Volvo puts such a big emphasis on safety, because it’s fundamental to every moment behind the wheel. We know that our trucks might have to thread a city’s streets one day and do a 1000-kilometre line haul the next.

“Therefore, the Volvo Accident Research Team has been investigating collisions, interviewing drivers, and gathering accident information since 1969. We’ve investigated over 1500 accidents and crash-tested more trucks than anyone. Some manufacturers like to think that trucks are all about horsepower, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

“For example, we know that 80 percent of truck accidents are from leaving the road or colliding with another truck, usually from the rear. We deliberately design our cabs to minimise the effect of these types of accidents on the driver and anyone outside.”

The result of all this research is a wide variety of safety features, some standard, some optional. “We have two categories of safety features: active and passive, and both are designed to prevent accidents happening.  Active safety features assist the driver in avoiding an accident, such as stability programs, Lane Change Support, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Support.  Passive safety refers to the features that minimise the risk of injury to all people involved, such as FUPS, cab strength, seatbelts, etc.”

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