MONDAY’S fiery truck fatal at Cooranbong is the latest in a series of horrific road accidents on major east coast highways in recent weeks.
Not all have involved trucks, but the industry’s peak body, the Australian Trucking Association, is concerned about a substantial increase in the number of people killed in accidents involving trucks in NSW, and has called for a series of reforms as a result.
One of its proposals is that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau be given responsibility for investigating truck fatalities, which are at present handled by state and territory coroners. The trucking association believes this process is too time-consuming, and that more would be learned, safety-wise, if the bureau – which investigates air, sea and rail accidents – was given this added duty.
It is true that the bureau produces a substantial amount of information about safety in the modes of transport for which it has jurisdiction. But it, too, can take time to finalise its investigations. On Tuesday, it released a report into an incident at Perth airport that took place a month short of two years ago. A lot would depend on funding, and to this end the trucking association says the bureau would need more than $4 million a year to investigate truck accidents.
In the meantime, the industry already has a substantial amount of trend information about truck accidents. In its newsletters to members, the trucking association promotes a compendium of truck accident statistics kept by one of the industry’s biggest insurers, National Transport Insurance or NTI.
Issued biennially since 2002, the reports show that inappropriate speed is the most common cause of truck accidents, followed by fatigue. In the most recent examination of 606 crashes in 2015, NTI found that speed was the predominant cause of 21 per cent of truck crashes, and that 29 per cent of “major” truck crashes were rollovers. Truck fires accounted for one in 10 accidents. Mechanical failures were the major cause of just 3.5 per cent of crashes.
The road transport industry has long had a reputation as a hard industry, with demanding delivery schedules and alleged amphetamine use to counter fatigue. Reforms have been put in place in recent years but a rising death toll in NSW and a consistent national accident rate in the NTI study shows there is more to be done. Attention to speed – both by truck drivers and those around them – is the obvious place to start.