In recent years, the Australian government and industry bodies in the trucking and transport sectors have been committed to road safety, with a specific focus on reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities on Australian roads.
Now, more than ever, it appears the government is pushing for funding to be put towards road safety, especially after the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic magnified the necessity of our trucking industry as an essential service.
Machinery Marketplace, Machines4U, saw enormous growth in the demand for trucking machinery on their online marketplace during the peak COVID period of April to June, 2020. CEO of Machines4U, Steve Krebs, thinks the demand will continue which will put more pressure on the government to ensure road safety is at its peak.
“COVID-19 was a magnifier for a lot of industries but none more than the trucking industry. It [trucking] was an essential service during the pandemic, as deliveries of important supplies continued. Our platform saw organic traffic for trucking machinery more than double with an increase of 142 per cent from April to June, 2020. That is a staggering increase, and one that highlights how important trucking is in this country.
“But it also shows us that in order to keep up with the demand of our trucking industry, more needs to be done to ensure the safety of roads and road users,” Krebs said.
It appears the Australian Government agrees, putting ample funding toward road safety and infrastructure improvements scheduled for rollout in the coming years.
Big funding for road safety
Currently, the Australian Government is putting more than $2 billion into road safety through a number of key initiatives. The aim of all funding is to improve road safety for all road users and reduce deaths and serious injuries sustained on Australian roads.
One key program is the Road Safety Program which is putting $2 billion worth of funding towards the fast roll out of lifesaving road safety treatments in rural and regional Australian areas. It also aims to fund protection for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
It’s believed this program could reduce fatalities and serious injury by up to 35 per cent and reduce the $30 billion annual cost of road trauma in Australia.
To further encourage new innovations in road safety, the government has set up a $12 million Road Safety Innovation Fund, which was aimed at improvements to road safety. The fund made $10 million available to successful applicants over a 4-year period for projects including: the adoption of new technologies, improvements to delivery techniques, road safety management initiatives and research to improve road safety outcomes.
Applications to the Road Safety Innovation Fund closed at the end of March 2021, but this type of funding is good news for the future of road safety and the trucking industry.
Funding for road safety initiatives are expected to continue in years to come with the Australian Transport Association submitting a proposal for the 2021-22 Federal Budget for a safe, professional and viable trucking industry. Key components of the submission include: improvements to road safety, infrastructure investment for high productivity freight vehicles, more rest areas, and investments to national highways for improved safety.
COVID-19’s impact on road safety
As mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the trucking and transport industry, which in turn highlighted the importance of road safety.
And while it would make sense for there to be a significant drop in road deaths during the peak COVID-19 lockdown from March to August, the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) actually found that despite up to 30 per cent less road use, only a 10 per cent reduction in fatal crashes and an 8 per cent reduction in road fatalities occurred nationwide.
It seems there was also an increase in cyclist road deaths and an increase in fatalities on roads in Queensland. What makes these statistics even more alarming is the fact that travel was restricted and most people had little need to be on the roads during the lockdown period. Such findings are showing that more needs to be done to ensure our infrastructure is up to standard and road safety is a priority for all Australians.
The road to a safer future
The Road Safety Program and Road Safety Innovation Fund are great initiatives which will help ensure safety on Australian roads and will certainly contribute to the government’s target of zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2050.
Another aspect which can assist in better road safety, is the maintenance of trucks and other heavy vehicles. The National Transport Insurance and National Heavy Vehicle Regulator recently conducted a joint roadworthiness report which found that keeping vehicles well maintained does contribute to trucking safety and productivity.
The study examined heavy vehicle maintenance on the brakes, wheels and couplings and reports that the operators of poorly maintained vehicles are more likely to be involved in a road accident and have a greater chance of submitting an insurance claim.
While there is little data on the link between vehicle maintenance and road safety, this study could pave the path for future studies into road safety. It appears this space is constantly evolving and has the backing of key government and industry bodies, so it is sure to continue as a key topic in the industry.