Reducing Australia’s road accident rates, trauma and road deaths

NatRoad has long been an advocate for safer roads for all users, and today, Richard Calver, NatRoad Compliance and Workplace Advisor, gave evidence at the Joint Select Committee on Road Safety, along with a representative from the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).

The NatRoad submission outlined three policy areas where we believe improvements could substantially assist road safety:

  • Improved data and information about causes, trends and patterns of incidents;
  • Appropriate infrastructure, including heavy vehicle rest areas;
  • Education for light vehicle drivers on driving around heavy vehicles.

NatRoad has called for better research relating to the causes of heavy vehicle crashes and key factors with identifying trends and patterns. We have very good data that comes out of the National Truck Accident Research Centre which is privately funded. That data needs to be supplemented by a range of other information, that shows trends, patterns and causes over time.  One of the ways to get better data and a better understanding of heavy vehicle incidents is as we indicated in the written submission: to expand the role of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau so that it has the function of investigating incidents involving heavy vehicles.  These must be no-fault investigations. It is NatRoad policy that a dedicated authority such as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau be given power to promptly and fully investigate serious heavy vehicle accidents and to share the results and recommendations publicly so that all industry participants can take the appropriate action to reduce the road toll. That role should also encompass better research on trends and causal factors and should be linked to the work done by other agencies, such as the Office of Road Safety and the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

The issue of appropriate infrastructure that includes heavy vehicle rest areas as a pre-condition in tenders for new infrastructure is vital.  These rest areas are an integral component of proper fatigue management for heavy vehicle drivers. The management of fatigue through practical steps to assist the industry via rest areas with appropriate facilities is one way to assist to reduce fatigue-related incidents.

The third area we concentrated on is the education of light vehicle drivers about how to drive around heavy vehicles.  This also features in the ATA submission.  We reiterate the message that improved learner driver education about how to share the road safely must be a core element of improving road safety. One aspect of a Safe System is to examine interactions between all types of road users and the interaction between light and heavy vehicle drivers needs to be framed by reference to concerted education about the behaviour of heavy vehicles and the do’s and don’ts like not overtaking a turning truck or cutting in front, especially on high speed roads.

As indicated, NatRoad concentrated on three policy areas where Government policy changes are very important to advance road safety.  We commend these policy changes to the Committee.