ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

A Heavy Vehicle Safety Strategy for Australia: How do we get there and how will it change things?

Makeham, Peter

Heavy Vehicles


Heavy vehicle crashes represent a significant proportion of the current level of road trauma. They are involved in crashes in which around 20 percent of fatalities and 10 percent of serious injuries occur. The total cost of heavy vehicle crashes is estimated to be around $2,300 million a year. Over the past few years, reductions in heavy vehicle deaths and serious injuries have stabilised, following significant reductions in fatalities and serious injuries during the 1990-1995 period (refer attachment 1). The level of heavy vehicle traffic is expected to increase by 75 percent in the period to 2010. This increase in traffic inherently means greater heavy vehicle exposure and potentially means that the number of crashes could increase substantially unless deliberate action is taken to minimise the additional risks.

Much of the new freight will be carried on a more competitive road transport fleet, and the emergence of intermodal transport operators may see some shift to rail. Even so, road transport will continue to be the dominant carrier in the immediate future for interstate, intrastate non-bulk and urban freight movements. Freight carried by road, vehicle movements and vehicle tonne kilometres will all rise in the first decade of the 21st Century.

The Truck Safety Benchmarking study undertaken for NRTC, compared Australia?s heavy vehicle safety record with that of seven other OECD countries. It found that there is significant room for improvement, particularly in relation to night-time crashes, single vehicle crashes and occupant death rates.

Past experience in road safety has shown that concerted national action by major stakeholders can reduce this potential increase in trauma levels as well as assist the industry in meeting its share of the expected 40 percent reduction target in the National Road Safety Strategy. Without a specific strategy and action plan which addresses the needs of the road transport industry, it will be more difficult for the industry to engage its members and associated partners, and for governments to focus on the critical issues which they need to address.