Is it too much to ask for the trucking industry to be able to deal with sensible car drivers? The biggest risk to safety on our highways is those people driving cars. They are the least observant, most likely to speed and prone to fatigue-related crashes, especially around holiday time.
Car drivers are the bane of the truckie’s life, lacking any kind of consideration for truck drivers and manoeuvring dangerously around them. If there is one thing we need to fix to improve road safety it is the standard of car driving.
The biggest problem is the lack of knowledge in the car driving community about trucks, the way they perform and what they can and cannot do. Car drivers tend to exhibit fear around trucks and will tend to panic if the truck does anything they don’t understand.
It’s a recipe for disaster – the car driver feels threatened by the truck and can react impulsively, but doesn’t know whether the truck can or will stop, or manoeuvre out of the way. At the same time, the poor truckie is surrounded by a number of smaller vehicles, which are likely react irrationally to anything they may do.
The solution is improved awareness, on the part of the car driver, about the way to interact with trucks out on the highway. This was the point put to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee this week by Simon O’Hara, General Manager at Road Freight NSW.
He called on the Federal Government to create a “special industry-led national working group to better educate motorists on interacting with heavy vehicles in order to reduce the number of road accidents estimated to be costing the Australian economy $33 billion a year.”
The accidents we, in trucking, are particularly concerned with are those where a truck is involved with a light vehicle, as we know at least 87 per cent of accidents involving a truck and another vehicle, which result in a fatality, is caused by the other vehicle, not the truck.
However, due to the massive difference in scale – a two-tonne SUV up against something like a B-double running at over 60 tonnes – the fatality is likely to be in the car rather than the truck. Car drivers need to understand the dangers they are living with and a little knowledge would go a long way in calming their nerves and making their manoeuvring a little more rational.
Simply clarifying what the truck driver can and can’t see would improve the situation. The truckie has a grandstand seat in the situation, is much higher and can see all of the vehicles around the truck. They are going to see a problem developing well before the, much lower, car driver becomes aware.
The truckie is also much more experienced, has travelled a hell of a lot more kilometres and been in these situations thousands of times. If improved knowledge could build some trust on the part of the car driver for the truckie’s care and skills, we would go a long way towards fewer accidents out on the highway.
Of course, the flip side to this is how well the trucking industry keeps its own house in order. We do not need some bull-headed idiots driving aggressively at cars, leading to the car driver throwing any improved knowledge out of the window – then we are back to square one.
We can lobby for the Feds to stump up some cash to improve car driver knowledge and behaviour, but we, as an industry, have to clamp down on any misbehaviour, for real! Risk-taking truck drivers are capable of destroying years of good work in one stroke and this is something we can ill afford.