NTI report shows crashes down since pandemic and NatRoad response


A major new report, released ahead of the June long weekend, has found during COVID Australia’s roads were the safest they’ve been in years, with the number of multi-vehicle crashes involving heavy vehicles down more than 16 percent.

NTI report shows crashes down since pandemic and NatRoad response
NTARC report author Adam Gibson

Australia’s roads were the safest they’ve been in years during the Covid-19 outbreak, with the number of multi-vehicle crashes involving heavy vehicles down more than 16 per cent, the National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) finds.

The National Transport Insurance (NTI) research arm’s 10th, and now annual, Major Accident Investigation Report into the cause of major crashes involving NTI-insured heavy vehicles contains positive findings despite more trucks and freight being on Australian roads, particularly during the pandemic.

NTARC author Adam Gibson says that, since 2003, when the first NTARC report was released, the number of freight movements and heavy vehicles has increased by 50 per cent.

"The industry should be congratulated for keeping Australia moving and for keeping supermarket shelves stocked especially during Covid lockdowns," Gibson says.

The Major Accident Investigation 2021 Report finds evidence road safety messaging is working, with fatigue-related crashes involving heavy vehicles down from 27 per cent in 2005 to 8 per cent last year.

"There’s been a massive reduction in multi-vehicle crashes involving trucks and the lowest number of fatigue-related crashes since NTI began keeping records 18 years ago," Gibson says.

"It is a credit to the industry, truck drivers and all road users."

Key findings include:

  • Likely as a result of Covid-19, the overall frequency of large loss (greater than $50,000) crashes involving heavy vehicles declined in 2020
  • Fatigue crashes continued their long-term decline with the lowest ever proportion of large losses caused by fatigue
  • Inappropriate Speed and Driver Error Crashes continue to be a serious concern with 54.5 per cent of all large loss crashes in 2020 caused by these two factors
  • After a tragic increase in 2019, truck occupant crash deaths dropped to a level slightly below the long-term averages with 31 truck occupants (and one bus occupant) losing their lives in crashes in 2020
  • Inattention/Distraction crashes continued to increase; 15.4 per cent of large loss crashes were attributed to Inattention/Distraction making it the cause of more large losses than fatigue and mechanical failure combined
  • Inadequate Following Distance caused nearly one in ten (9.3 per cent) of large losses, with 96.2 per cent of these incidents involving nose-to-tail crashes with other vehicles.
  • Consistent with previous years, in nearly 8 out of every 10 (78.3 per cent) fatal crashes involving a truck and a car, the car was the at-fault party.

It adds that, while one in eight truck crashes were due to inappropriate speed for the conditions, this did not mean the vehicles were exceeding the speed limit.

Further, technology and smart trucks are key to further driving down the road toll.


Read about the NHVR's education program aimed at light vehicle users, here


"Speed cameras, radar traps and increased speed enforcement help deter high speed offences, but data shows technology and smart braking systems on trucks are key to reducing single-vehicle rollover crashes," Gibson says.

Coming from an engineering background Gibson says one of the great strengths of NTI is the diversity of skills of those in the organisation.

"I've spent time a lot of time in the workshop laying underneath trucks not just sitting behind a desk and it's important to have these conversations with people who do this sort of work but also understand the reality out on the road," Gibson says.

Speaking on the report Gibson says that NTI is in a priveledged position.

"We are neither regulator nor competitor but we have a sharedinterest, we'd like to get everyone home safe at the end of every trip.

"We look particularly at the 'why', what could we have changed to stop that crash from occuring, and what could we change in the future to stop similar crashes from happening in the future," says Gibson.

NTI is working with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to use data from the NTARC report to develop new education initiatives to further improve road safety.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto says data-driven technology is the new frontier in making roads safer.

"Australia’s trucking industry is set for an information boom over the next decade, which will help improve safety and increase productivity," Petroccitto says.

"The NHVR is committed to ongoing fatigue detection programs and support, together with delivering safety campaigns such as We Need Space, aimed at reminding light vehicle drivers about the importance of driving safely around truck drivers on the road.

"We want every driver to travel safely and arrive safely at their destination and ensure these NTARC report figures continue to improve."

Drivers are again being reminded to give heavy vehicles extra space as we head into the long weekend.

"If you are near a heavy vehicle, remember it takes a truck longer to brake," Petroccitto says.

"Trucks also have larger blind spots and require more room to manoeuvre so avoid risky behaviour like cutting in front."

Gibson says the NTARC data would be used to create awareness and educational material for operators, drivers and CEOs through NTI’s new Better Business Hub and Business of Safety programs.

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has welcomed the research released  that shows a reduction in crashes involving trucks in 2020.

However, the research highlighted that interactions between light and heavy vehicles remains an area of concern, finding that in fatal incidents involving a car and a truck, the car was at fault in just under 80% of the time.

"It’s clear that Australia needs to embrace a better on-road culture, where light vehicle drivers are more aware of the requirements to drive safely around heavy vehicles," Warren Clark, NatRoad CEO says.

"This could be addressed through Government-run public awareness campaigns and driver education programs for new and existing licence holders. Light-vehicle driver education should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

NatRoad says it's committed to road safety and congratulates NTI for producing worthwhile industry research.

The full NTARC report is available here.

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