Despite being a heavier presence on the roads than ever before, trucks are being involved in fewer serious crashes, according to new research from NTI.

The specialist insurer’s National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) has released its latest report, delving into its claims database to examine trends, and finding that despite the volume of road freight increasing by 30% in the past decade, the rate of serious accidents has decreased by more than a third.

NTI Industry Relations National Manager and report author Owen Driscoll says the encouraging result stems from advances in technology, improvements to roads and a more
serious culture of safety.

This creates the potential issue of livestock being allowed to roam free on the network, with obvious consequences.

“The transport industry has recently recognised 25 years of change, following some horrific road crashes in the 1980s,” he says. “In 2015, we have safer vehicles, safer speeds, safer roads and generally more responsible and safer behaviour.

“Nonetheless, heavy vehicle crash accidents continue to occur, albeit with the number of people killed in Australia from crashes involving heavy vehicles over the past decade falling significantly.”

Drilling down

The report is the sixth that NTARC has compiled since 2002 and is based on interrogating the NTI database for the approximately 7500 claims registered annually to focus on claims larger than $50,000. “Inappropriate speed remains the major cause of severe accidents for NTI,” Driscoll says. “Whether negotiating a roundabout, cornering or just changing lanes,
inappropriate speed accounted for 27% of all losses during 2013, whereas in the previous study it was 25.4%.” Of these speed-related crashes, almost a quarter resulted in roll-over.

NTI trucking infographic

Meanwhile, fatigue is blamed for almost 13% of losses, the highest proportion since 2007. “While the rate of fatigue incidents in Queensland and Victoria, the WA and NSW result has deteriorated. WA, which in the previous study contributed to 16% of national fatigue losses, was responsible for 30%,” Driscoll says.

Furthermore, he notes, in almost three-quarters of fatigue-related accidents, drivers were participating in government-accredited fatigue management programs that permitted extended driving hours. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of fatigue losses occurred on Tuesdays.

Roads scholar

Driscoll says a significant factor in the reduction of crashes has been highway upgrades, including the completion of the duplication of NSW’s Hume Highway in 2013. “There has been a substantial improvement in the incidence of serious crashes,” he says.

Driscoll compares this with the Great Northern Highway in WA. “With 7.3% of major accidents the Great Northern accounted for a similar number of losses recorded on the Hume,” he says. “Obviously, traffic and freight movements are substantially less than the Hume by comparison. One of the most concerning issues is the fact that much of it is unfenced. This creates the potential issue of livestock being allowed to roam free on the network, with obvious consequences.”

Driscoll says as well as road improvements, another big driver of increased truck safety was technology. “It’s improving all the time and greater surveillance mean there is simply less breaking of the law,” he says.

Driscoll says the insights gleaned from the report should be a valuable tool for brokers in the heavy motor space. “Brokers can use this report to give themselves and their customers insight into when, where and why accidents are likely to occur. It’s a good way to strengthen relationships.”

Click here to view the full report.