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Safer if trucks allowed to travel at same maximum speed, says NatRoad

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Speed limits are not a silver bullet for road safety improvement, the National Road Transport Association has told a NSW Parliamentary committee.

The Standing Committee on Road Safety – better known as Staysafe – is enquiring into regional speed limits and road safety.

In its submission, NatRoad said that while speed must always be appropriate to road conditions, governments at all levels need to bite the bullet and massively upgrade infrastructure.

“There is no better example than the upgrade currently underway on the Kings Highway which is the state road linking Canberra with Batemans Bay on the NSW South Coast,” said NatRoad CEO Warren Clark.

“Its focus is on building overtaking lanes and installing safety treatments, like widened centrelines and shoulders, safety barriers and audio-tactile line marking.

“Safety improvements like these are much more important than speed management, which all too frequently becomes a revenue-raiser.”

NatRoad wants Transport for NSW to ban vulnerable road users such as cyclists from a range of highways, as they are with freeways.

“TfNSW really needs to take a close look at risk management starting with restricting bicycle access to the Pacific Highway,” Clark said.

The contentious question of variable speed limits has been raised by NatRoad members who say its incidence is increasing.

“Our strong view is that variability can lead to inadvertent non-compliance, largely unrelated to safety issues, and is a poor way to deal with safety,” Clark said.

“Variable speed limits cause frustration and we see it in the behaviour of light vehicle drivers who often overtake trucks in a dangerous manner.

“Wherever possible, we want road designers to make sure heavy and light vehicles are separated and there must be a greater focus on educating people in appropriate driving behaviour around heavy vehicles.

“It’s safer if all heavy vehicles are permitted to travel at the same maximum speed because it reduces the need for overtaking.

“The difference in handling and stability for different types of combinations at a 10km/h speed difference is minimal and does not outweigh the benefits of the same maximum speed.”

Clark says policy-makers should note the 2020 National Truck Accident Research Centre that found where a car and a truck were involved in a fatal crash, the car was the at-fault party 78.3 per cent of the time.

“This figure has exceeded 90 per cent in past reports,” Clark said.

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