A joint statement from the Australian Transport Suppliers Association and National Bulk Tanker Association is calling for Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which includes a rollover stability feature to be introduced on all trucks. The statement reckons the argument for mandating ESC is compelling, following the recommendation of a NSW Coronial Inquest into four deaths on the Princes Highway in 2009 and the likely outcome of an investigation into the Mona Vale tanker crash last October.
“Even experienced drivers occasionally misjudge the road conditions,” says Dr Peter Hart, Chairman of ARTSA in the statement. “It is not a case of speeding; it is a case of misjudgement. Variable loading and slosh in tankers is another problem factor. The intelligent control system can foresee a developing problem and intervene.”
Stability control is already mandated in the European Union and, in the US, there are plans to mandate ESC. Most of the world’s truck manufacturers offer some form of ESC on their trucks and trailer builders have a number of systems to choose from, in terms of new-build trailers and retrofitted ESC systems for existing trailers.
The statement also points to the comments of David Simon, Managing Director of Simon National Carriers in the recent Radio National program on truck roll overs.
“I’ve been purchasing electronic stability on all trailers we’ve bought for the last seven or eight years, really since it’s become reliable and robust in Australian conditions,” said Simon in the interview.
“The good operators in our industry have embraced ESC,” said Justin Keast, who heads up McColl’s tanker division operating one of the largest tanker fleets in Australia as well as being Chairman of NBTA. “It is no longer a debate and our Association has supported its adoption for a number of years. However there are considerable numbers of operators who are happy to avoid it simply because it adds cost to their business. It is time to level the playing field and ensure that all new trucks and trailers are fitted with ESC.”
The argument against mandating this system in the past has been around the existing rolling stock and compatibility of systems. Most of these issues have been put to bed, along with the other assertion, a well maintained truck and trailer set are able to meet our safety criteria. The recent events have demonstrated how maintenance standards can slip with awful consequences.
The trucking industry is, again, under the microscope due to poor professional practice in some operators. There is an immediate need to send to a strong signal to both government and the public at large, showing the trucking industry is taking safety seriously. Calling for and implementing mandated ESC may just be the right kind of signal to give, just now.
There may be exceptions to be made for rural operators in certain conditions but the mandate could be made to fit for the vast majority of the trucking fleet in Australia. It would seem to be logical for the industry to embrace what the ARTSA/NBTA statement calls the ‘single most significant safety solution for heavy vehicles in the last 20 years’.