Road safety research by a major transport and logistics provider shows most fatal incidents are caused by third parties, indicating that improving road safety around heavy vehicles is a responsibility government and the community shares with the transport industry.
Toll Group examined all on-road and driver fatalities at its operations over a 10 year period. Key findings of its research included:
In most instances, fatalities were caused by a third party, not the heavy vehicle driver
• Light vehicle drivers are over-represented in the fatalities (37 per cent), suggesting light vehicle drivers and other road users need to be better educated about how to share the road safely with heavy vehicles.
• Contractor and casual drivers were much more likely to be involved in fatalities than employee drivers (although this relationship cannot be said to be causal).
• One in seven fatalities was confirmed ‘suicide by truck’, whereby third parties intentionally use the velocity of the truck to end their lives.
• Almost 10 per cent of incidents were non-work related fatalities, usually the result of a heart attack.
The research findings confirm that, contrary to popular belief and regular media portrayal, most fatal incidents on our roads are the fault of the third party rather than the heavy vehicle driver.
The assumption that the truck is most likely to be at fault is suggested by the 2018 Re:act behavioural change initiative, which showed 82 per cent of university students surveyed believed incidents were the truck driver’s fault and even more (87 per cent) believed a heavy vehicle driver could avoid a crash if a light vehicle driver made a mistake around a truck.
In fact, Toll’s analysis is consistent with NTI data in its finding that third party road users are, generally speaking, the party at fault.
Such findings show government and the community need to work together with the transport industry to reduce the road toll, and that efforts to improve road safety around heavy vehicles will only be as effective as the strength of such road safety partnerships.
“There is a big question mark over how well light vehicle drivers are educated about how to drive safely around trucks,” according to Toll Group’s General Manager for Road Transport Safety and Compliance Sarah Jones, who completed Toll’s fatalities analysis.
“Drawing on my own personal experience, until I joined this industry I had no idea about safe stopping distances for trucks and I didn’t understand what the ‘do not overtake turning vehicle’ message actually meant.
“It’s also very interesting to me that if you look at national and individual state road safety strategies, most of them don’t talk about heavy vehicle-light vehicle interaction at all.”
What can we do collaboratively to address this issue such that we all share the responsibility?