The stats prove we are not talking to the people we need to communicate with, trucking needs to make sure it’s safety message is hitting the right target audience. Actually, it’s not just trucking, there is a need for everyone concerned with safety to reach the demographic, which is the main issue.
Owen Driscoll from NTI and involved its National Truck Accident Research Centre has spent many years going around with a safety message for the trucking industry. In recent years, he has been backing this up with significant numbers from the NTARC.
One message comes out very clearly from his figures and is quoted over and over again in discussions about safety on the road around trucks. The number quoted varies, but is consistently a percentage in the eighties.
The number in question is the percentage of accidents involving a truck and another vehicle in which the other vehicle was deemed to be at fault. From the latest research, this number now stands at 88 per cent. Let’s run that number by you again, 88 per cent.
This tells us quite a lot about what is going on out there on the highway. It tells us one of the biggest safety risks facing any truck driver is someone in one of those light vehicles around them. The truck driver and the safety regime in the company he works for, plus all of the regulatory control of the trucking industry, have absolutely no control over the way the uninformed car driver acts around trucks.
The solution so far has been to prepare the truck and the driver for the worst. They can be trained in all of the best defensive driving techniques, anticipating errant stupidity or a total lack of judgement on the part of the other vehicle driver, but it will not stop these accidents occurring.
Likewise, the truck can be fitted with all of the latest electronic gadgets to increase safety around the truck. Beepers can go off when a car is in the blind spot, an array of cameras can feed the truck driver with a full set of images around the truck and radar can see a stationary vehicle in front and hit the brakes on the truck.
Despite all of this training and safety equipment, we still get the same figure, 88 per cent. In fact it has been slowly creeping up over the years I have been reporting on this subject.
This increase is not a result of trucks becoming more unsafe, in fact, it’s the opposite. It is a result of the drivers of those vehicles in close proximity to the truck not knowing anything about how to react in and around our trucks.
Why don’t they know? Because nobody ever told them. They have been given no information about the size and weight of the truck, or how it will react in certain circumstances. They also seem to know the truck is always at fault, because that’s how it is portrayed in the media, even an accident between a truck and three cars is described as a ‘truck crash’! No matter who was at fault.
Now is the time to do something about it. We have the stats, Owen will come along and bend your ear about them anytime you want. We have the safety culture being driven into our industry by responsible operators and improving regulation.
What we don’t have is any form of consistent message reaching the ears of those people who are at fault in 88 per cent of all two vehicle accidents involving a truck. Why? Because they are the general public and we don’t know how to get a message to them? Because we don’t know who causes the accidents?
There must be a way to get all of the interested parties singing from the same hymn sheet and getting some real funding to send the right message to the right people. We just need a smart campaign, well designed and targeted at a group of people who are causing death on our roads.