After a particularly worrying increase in non-impact fires in the National Truck Accident Research Centre 2013 survey results, a lot of publicity around the truck fire issue had an impact with many in the industry focusing on the issue. This resulted in improved numbers in the 2015 report results with a 20 per cent decrease in non-impact fires.
The NTARC has been producing reports using the data collected by National Transport Insurance (NTI) in accident claims for many years. The latest report, covering 2017, has just been released and Adam Gibson, NTI Transport and Logistics Risk Engineer and author of the NTARC report, presented the results.
“In this year’s report there were two major standout causes of fires, starter motor main power cables and ‘dubious aftermarket electrical work”, said Adam. “There are some simple solutions we can do in this space without out much effort.”
Incidents caused by mechanical failure increased by over 80 per cent from the previous testing period in 2015, with most of these being caused by steer tyre failures, at 52 per cent. All of these accidents occurred in high-speed zones.
One of the unusual figures thrown up by Adam’s research is the prevalence of rollover while tipping incidents in the Perth area. 40 per cent of all of these kinds of events recorded in the report happened within 300 km of Perth and all of these were all one particular transport task, hauling lime sand. These were all incidents where there were no other causal factors, there was no soft ground or mechanical problem.
“It’s very easy to fall into the trap of blaming drivers here,” said Adam. “But I think what we have here is a real task design problem. It is probably one which is up to the transport industry itself to solve as it is an off-road issue. This is something we can do better.”
The Truckies Are Not to Blame
As is always the case whenever these figures are reported, the issue of multi-vehicle accidents which involve a truck and a light vehicle, and the apportioning blame for those accidents. In 2017, the driver of the light vehicle was to blame in 83 per cent of the incidents included in the report. This is slightly down on the last research results but the figure has remained consistently over 80 per cent ever since these reports began to be compiled.
“We have seen very little mention of these numbers in the mainstream media,” said Adam. “If we want to improve that heavy-vehicle-involved accident number this has to be addressed. We can solve all of our single vehicle accident issues and still not have touched 65 per cent of all of the fatalities involved.
“One thing we did in this latest report is evaluate the proportion of suicides involved in these figures. We developed a criterion from strongly indicated, which is the legal burden of proof, and from indicated, which is the civil burden of proof.
“Using that criteria in evaluating multi-vehicle fatal crashes we found that 36.5 per cent of those multiple vehicle crashes that were either indicated or strongly indicated to be suicide. Of those 20.8 per cent were strongly indicated to have been suicide.
Adam also looked back over the figures NTI have been compiling and since the first NTARC report appeared.
“We have achieved an almost linear improvement in the performance of the transport industry while these reports have been being compiled,” said Adam.” If we draw our line forwards, we find that we are as close as one generation from having zero fatalities in truck-involved accidents for the first time in 110 years. We will have to reach some diminishing rate of return at some point, we will not be able to maintain that level of improvement.
“We may not reach zero by 2032 but, by taking reasonable measures, by 2050 we could see zero heavy vehicle involved deaths in Australia. Which is a tremendous thing. It is not going to be easy, but I believe we have the both the opportunity and the moral imperative to fight to stay on that trend for as long as we can.”
“We have two initiatives in this space. The first is around engagement and culture within organisations. It’s not your policies and procedures which get you safety outcomes, it’s what your people do and what they believe. We have been working with clients to bring in organisational change and engagement experts to help build connections inside our clients companies.”