Trucks owned and operated by livestock producers are over-represented in major heavy vehicle accident data in Australia, according to a soon-to-be-released truck safety survey.
A snapshot of Australia’s road freight industry safety record was presented to the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association conference in Toowoomba last Friday by Owen Driscoll, industry and government relations manager for National Transport Insurance (NTI).
Since 2002, NTI, the nation’s largest truck insurer, has funded major independent accident investigation surveys every two years to document the trucking industry’s progress on safety and to gain greater insights into the causes of serious heavy vehicle crashes.
The seventh biannual report has been completed and will be released by NTI’s National Truck Accident Research Centre in coming weeks, but Mr Driscoll was able to offer some insights at last Friday’s conference.
The headline point is that since reports started in 2002, there are now 46 percent less heavy vehicle major accidents in Australia, even though overall freight activity has grown by 40pc.
A range of factors is behind that significant improvement, according to Mr Driscoll, including better trucks, better roads, better training of drivers, better safety programs and fatigue management, and better technology such as satellite monitoring.
The livestock transport sector is over-represented in the figures, accounting for four percent of the road freight task, but 10pc of all major heavy vehicle accidents.
But it is also important to note, Mr Driscoll pointed out, that livestock transport is a risky business, and a “very tough part of the freight task”.
Loading cattle in dust and heat and driving long-distances on dirt roads with shifting loads presented a serious challenge.
“Given the circumstances they operate in, their behaviour is exceptionally good,” he told Beef Central.
“They are over-represented but only marginally. It is a very tough job and one they do very well.”
One area he was concerned about however was the over-representation of trucks owned and operated by livestock producers.
“A big proportion of accidents in the livestock arena happen with farmers and graziers who think it is a bright idea to buy a truck and trailer these days and undercut the proper operators,” he said.
“They represent 27pc of the hits.
“I would like to know what proportion of the freight they carry. That would be really interesting.”
He said this ancillary sector of the fleet tended run under the guard of regulators, and was arguably likely to not have the same level of driver training or to follow correct fatigue management procedures.
He said Government agencies should concentrate their focus more on ancillary trucks in both the farming and mining community that run under the radar.