The National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) has been producing reports using the data collected by National Transport Insurance (NTI) in accident claims for many years and the next chapter from NTARC was unveiled at the Trucking 19 Australian Trucking Association Conference. This 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 Perth.
“The key thing we are measured on, as an industry, is heavy vehicle involved fatalities,” said Adam. “It’s important to stress here that it is involved, not necessarily caused. If we look back over the time period we have been publishing this report, in the figures up to 2013, we have seen the number of fatalities involved drop from around 285 each year to around 178 in 2018.
“In that same time period, we saw an increase in that freight task from 140 million tonne km to 225. That’s a 60 per cent increase. We can look at what those figures really mean in practical terms. As a result of safety improvements delivered by our industry 1,545 people made it home safely who wouldn’t have otherwise. That is a tremendous credit to the work that has been done in industry.”
The report uses data from 756 accidents in 2017 all those valued at over $50,000 by NTI. The rate of large losses has remained stable for the last eight years and one in every 400 trucks will be involved every year. There has been a decrease in the number of at-fault claims made, but at the same time, the number of not at fault claims being made have risen by the same amount.
One of the major issues which Adam has looked at it is report is the issue of driver behaviour. Incidents are grouped together to highlight the overall effect of the driver behaviour in accidents but are also then broken down into the various constituents.
The three main causes involved here are fatigue, speed and driver error. Over half the incidents included in this report were caused by one of these three issues.
“We have not seen significant improvement in this space,” said Adam.” It’s something we really need to look at. Driver error is around 20 per cent and a third of those are inadequate following distance. They tend to be run into rear crashes, when traffic slows and the driver does not have adequate time to respond. These drivers do not drive in isolation, any initiative in the space will need to look at light and heavy vehicles. The fact is, we all follow too closely in Australia.
“I am very happy to report that in the 2017 report we sold the lowest proportion of fatigue losses in the history of our report at 9.8 per cent of our large losses. This reflects a massive effort across our industry.”
NTARC drilled down on this topic and looked at the risk of a fatigue loss in proportion to the volume freight in each state. What the survey found is that Queensland was the worst performer by far with a rate of losses 55 per cent higher than the rest of the country. The standout performer was Victoria with a 66 per cent decrease in fatigue losses. The state ends up 60 per cent below the national average.
“I am not sure what is behind that improvement, it would be interesting to talk to VicRoads and the authorities for their theories, but it is to be celebrated,” said Adam. “There is one more thing to be said about fatigue and that is, despite these improvements it does remain the single most important factor in causing single vehicle accidents. While the overall rate of fatigue crashes continues to decline, it is still killing our drivers.”