Huge improvements have been made in heavy vehicle road safety performance since the mid-1990s. The number of fatal accidents involving heavy vehicles more than halved over that period. The reduction is even more significant when the growth in the number of trucks and the distance travelled is taken into account.
Truck-related fatal crashes dropped from 6.6 per 100 million km in 1995 to 2.1 per 100 million km in 2009. Truck-related fatal accidents are now just one-third the level they were in 1995.
The most common cause of fatal accidents involving a truck is another vehicle. Cars are responsible for around 66% of all fatal truck crashes in New Zealand. Despite this, trucking operators continue to working hard to improve the industry’s safety performance.
The industry’s improving performance is due to:
- A stringent series of driving tests covering vehicles from small delivery trucks to multi-axle A and B train rigs. These require drivers to prove thorough knowledge of the road code and rules affecting vehicle weight, dimension and performance. Age restrictions apply for each licence class and a demonstrated ability to drive each type of vehicle is also required.
- New trucks with greater safety performance and features such as traction control and ABS braking. Measures to improve truck stability and safety compliance.
- The industry is strongly promoting its own new safety initiatives such as the Rollover Prevention Programme and the Operator Rating System. The Forum however has major reservations about its public use to rate companies, especially as the data for these ratings can be distorted. The Forum’s preference is for the System to be used for its original purpose of helping enforcement officers identify operators whose safety performance needs improving.
The road freight industry has taken the lead in promoting other measures to improve road safety.
In 2005, the Road Transport Forum Board adopted a drug and alcohol policy for the industry, following a remit passed at the 2004 Road Transport Forum Annual Conference, which states:
- zero tolerance of any use of illegal drugs
- No alcohol consumption before starting duty and only moderate consumption 12 hours beforehand
In 2004 we also began pushing the Government to introduce roadside drug testing which was finally adopted in 2010. Forum members want the Government to toughen its drug testing policy by introducing random testing, as for alcohol, and bringing in more scientific methods such as saliva or blood testing.
Responsible operators have strict drug and alcohol policies which frequently include random drug testing. They also have comprehensive workplace health and safety codes.