The National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) report uses the data gathered by National Transport Insurance (NTI), analysing incident figures on all major accidents that go through its system. A major accident is defined as one costing over $50,000, and NTI recorded 848 of these in 2019, a large enough sample to get a real picture of what is going on out there on our roads.
The precision of these reports is being improved all the time. In the past, data collection was more difficult and the report only appeared every two years. NTARC has also updated its procedures and data structures to better fit with the way police and transport departments around Australia record incidents.
From now on NTARC will be bringing out its Major Accident Report annually, as opposed to biannually. The full 2020 report has now been released.
A number of headline figures stand out in the report. Between 2017 and 2019, the frequency of accidents dropped from one in 400 to one in 500. There was a sharp increase in accidents caused by distraction and inattention. There was an increase in truck driver deaths, no NTI-insured drivers had died in 2017 and this was not the case in 2019.
The class of truck being driven has different issues when included in these figures. Although multiple combinations larger than B-double only make up 11 per cent of trucks involved in incidents, they made up almost 26 per cent of those involving fatigue. For B-doubles, the problem is not quite so bad, but although they make up 21.5 per cent of trucks involved in the figures, they represent over 32 per cent of those in fatigue accidents.
The regularly quoted statistic that states that 80 per cent of all fatal crashes between a car and a truck are caused by the car is borne out yet again by the 2019 figures. On the other hand, when looking at car and truck crashes which did not involve a fatality, the truck was at fault 60.5 per cent of the time.
Mechanical failures have consistently stayed around the five per cent mark, with a blip in 2017 which saw the numbers jump up to seven per cent. However, steer tyres do make up 52.9 per cent of these incidents, plus 5.9 per cent of the incidents were caused by damage to other tyres. Interestingly, there were no incidents recorded in the statistics in rigid trucks, caused by mechanical failure.
As the years go by, this report has become more useful in pulling together exactly what is happening out on our roads and bringing the industry’s attention to the issues on which it needs to concentrate to avoid accidents and improve safety outcomes on the highway.
A sharp rise in fires ten years ago reported in the NTARC reports of the time led to a lot of work to reduce the risk of fires, resulting in lower levels of fire incidents in the years since. These are the kinds of tangible outcomes that this reporting system can enable.