ATA: Government must make safety a priority in spend

ATA Column - Vision Zero

As industry standards and safety technologies evolve, we are making progress in reducing the number and rate of truck crashes, but there is still a long way to go before we achieve our ambition of ‘Vision Zero’.

The number of crashes involving trucks on our roads is still unacceptable and will continue to be unacceptable until every road user gets home safely, every day.

The Australian Trucking Association and our members have made countless submissions and appeared before many inquiries and committees, advocating for the hardworking businesses and people in our industry.

We have also worked closely with the regulator, safety experts and industry representatives as part of a community of organisations who want Australia to do better on road safety and who value evidence-based policy making.

Earlier this year, the ATA gave evidence before the Joint Select Committee on Road Safety, which is inquiring into, and reporting on, the impact of road trauma and how to support the Australian Parliament’s resolve to reduce incidents on our roads.

This committee has done an outstanding job in connecting with industry and hearing from witnesses with unquestioned expertise in road safety, including Sal Petroccitto from the NHVR, Andrew King from 3M, Peter Frazer and Dr John Crozier.

The level of expertise and knowledge shared by this group, the ATA and our members is invaluable to the inquiry and the future of road safety in Australia.

We thank the committee for collaborating with industry in this process, but now call upon government to put practical measures into place.

There has been enough talk. Now is the time for action.

It is time for government to press on with the safe systems approach first adopted in the 2011 National Road Safety Strategy and prioritise safety in its approach to road spending.

We need safer roads, safer vehicles, better safety systems, and better information to link it all together.

We especially need more and better truck rest areas — and are making progress.

In the ATA’s submission to the Joint Select Committee on Road Safety, we noted that rest areas on Australia’s major highway were not eligible for funding under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program. However, under round seven of the program announced in March, those rest areas can now be funded.

But we still need consistent standards for building rest areas, including basic amenities like toilets, water and shade. The road is a truck driver’s workplace; they deserve to have reasonable access to facilities like any other worker.

To achieve the shared ambition of ‘Vision Zero’, we call on government to bring in proven safety technologies, with the ATA’s current focus in this area: advanced emergency braking for new trucks.

Data shows that if this were implemented with an extension of mandatory electronic stability control to new rigid trucks, the technology would save 102 lives and prevent 2,564 serious injuries.

Our members are working now on how to roll out the technology: rigid trucks first and then prime movers later, given the concerns that have been raised about the performance of the technology on multi-combination trucks.

In its hearing on 20 July, the committee heard from witnesses who advocated for better road crash data and no-blame safety investigations. The ATA has joined its voice to those calls.

Currently, road crashes are investigated through the police and the coronial system. These investigations are focused on legal blame, not making systemic safety recommendations.

In contrast, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau conducts independent, no-blame safety investigations of crashes and other safety occurrences in the aviation, marine and rail modes of transport. Introducing ATSB investigations of road crashes involving trucks would supplement, existing police and coronial investigations and provide valuable insights for improving safety.

To achieve our ambition of ‘Vision Zero’ we must explore every possible avenue and listen to the recommendations of safety experts.

Any truck crash or fatality is one too many. There is no time to waste – our country’s leaders must take action.

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