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More collaboration needed to address disturbing fatality rate

Adam Gibson, NTI’s Transport and Logistics Risk Engineer, is calling for more industry collaboration in 2021 to arrest the disturbing rise in truckie deaths in the last 12-month period recorded by the insurer.

NTI’s Major Accident Investigation 2020 Report showed that 53 drivers lost their lives in 2019, up from 38 in 2018. This unpleasant statistic has hovered around 34 truck occupant deaths in the preceding decade.

More recently, figures from the Australia Road Research Board (ARRB), also revealed how much work still needs to be done to improve safety for our drivers. The ARRB numbers showed that although there was 30% less traffic on the roads during Covid lockdowns, there wasn’t anywhere near the expected corresponding drop in heavy vehicle-involved fatalities.

Fatalities involving articulated trucks actually increased in the last two quarters in NSW, said the ARRB.

Gibson remains astounded that the number of fatalities in the heavy vehicle industry each year aren’t regarded as a national emergency.

“If 34 teachers lost their lives in Australia next year – even if five lost their lives – we’d have a Royal Commission,” he said.

Adam Gibson is astounded that the number of fatalities aren’t regarded as a national emergency.

“Tragically, I think we had had six or eight miners lose their lives in Queensland in the last two years and there were calls for the Queensland Minister for Mines and Energy to be sacked, so how can it possibly be acceptable to have for 34 heavy vehicle occupants killed in Australia, basically every year and not even have it rate a mention?

“How is it deemed to be just a cost of doing business?

Gibson aims to delve deeper behind the raw stats in 2021, and beyond, to get to the root of the issues and offer some tangible industry solutions.

Thanks to NTI’s partnership with Seeing Machines, and its in-cab driver monitoring technology, Gibson can already see that there is a serious industry issue with undiagnosed sleep apnoea, and there is a disturbing rise in the number of ‘attention and distraction crashes’ in the last two reports.

“It’s hard not to feel that the mobile telephone use has to be contributing toward that,” he said.

“I need to have a lot deeper discussions with the operators involved beyond that which we’d normally have as part of the insurance relationship and start to build a case for why this information is good for all of us; them, staff and industry.”

Gibson conceded that there are undoubted improvements in safety measures in Australia in recent times.

He tracks and measures how many heavy vehicle involved road crash deaths there are per billion tonne kilometres of freight each year and over the last 16 years that figure has dropped from two deaths to around 0.9, which by that measure alone rates Australia as one of the safest industries in the world.

But with fatigue still our biggest killer, a lot more can, and should be done, said Gibson.

“I want to see the pathway to zero deaths. I want to talk as an industry and say what does that look like?

“We know from history that if we don’t lead on safety, then someone in a fluorescent-lit office cubicle somewhere will tell us how to run transport safer, and that doesn’t have a history of happy outcomes.”

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