There are quite a few issues around quantifying and investigating truck accidents, some due to the vagaries of our adversarial ‘fed vs state’ system and others due to a lack of a real political will on the part of the authorities to tackle the truck trauma debate.
These issues come to mind after hearing about former truckie Darren Delaney, who is channelling his trauma, frustration, and passion for making trucking safer into action, as he pursues a study into truck accident investigation.
The CQUniversity Associate Lecturer has seen workmates die on the job with investigators unable to say what caused the death.
“In Australia, there are nine different investigation models, which produce nine different results. Every time you cross a state line, it changes,” says Darren. “There are so many discrepancies in the current models, that sometimes, there are no investigation outcomes.”
Similar sentiments are expressed by Adam Gibson, Transport and Logistics Engineer at NTI, who pulls together the truck accident statistics for the National Truck Accident Research Centre report which is now coming out annually and is due to make an appearance in a few weeks time.
Adam has to extract different stats out of state databases and try and merge them together in a way which gives a figure as close to the truth as possible. State statistics seem to be designed to make it difficult to compare the real facts between states.
Both of these issues point to a common thread and that is one based on a long historical tendency of the powers that be to ignore the trucking industry as much as possible. The fact that the economy is dependent upon an industry which has tightened up productivity to make our tyranny of distance actually work, is ignored.
Most of the time the industry is invisible and only appears in the public consciousness when something goes horribly wrong. The rest of the time tins of baked beans appear on supermarket shelves by sheer magic.
Our industry has worked hard over the years to get us a voice in the corridors of power, but they only seem to listen when they really need our votes. We need hard hitting numbers, beacuse if you can’t quantify it, you can’t solve it, and there are precious little realistic stats about trucking.
There were great hopes in the 1990s that the formation of the National Road Transport Commission (now the NTC) would be a kind of voice for trucking at the policy making table, but it is now charged with writing legislation, without enough power to really drive the changes needed.
More recently, we have got the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator which does seem to have some cut through, with some departments in government. In many cases, it is fighting for its own corner, but because of its closeness to the industry, the objectives are quite often both what trucking and the NHVR wants.