Trucking is a crucial part of New Zealand's economy, but for many of us sharing the road with trucks is a daunting experience. Motorists are intimidated by the sheer size and noise of trucks, and a perception they're unsafe.
Trucks are certainly less manoeuvrable and responsive than cars
Motorists are also concerned about the increasing number of larger freight-carrying trucks on the road. Many of these trucks are covering large distances in a competitive, deadline-driven environment. Driver fatigue is a serious issue, along with the risk that some drivers will take drugs to stave off drowsiness.
While trucks are over-represented in serious crashes, the good news is that the level of safety has improved. Even with an increase in truck traffic, the Ministry of Transport reports that the number of fatal crashes that involve a truck has halved since the early 1990s. Most truck crashes occur on the open road, with head-on fatal collisions being a major problem. However, the truck is at fault in only one quarter of these crashes.
Did you know?
In 2011, 50 people were killed and a further 893 were injured in road crashes involving trucks. This was 18% of all deaths and 7% of all reported injuries on our roads.
Trucks are more commonly at fault in incidents where the truck loses control/runs off the road, for example roll-overs from travelling too fast on tight corners.
AA speaking up for motorists
The AA supports the rights that trucks have as road users, and acknowledges the important role that road freight plays in the economy and New Zealand's economic prosperity. However, trucks must pay their fair share of the costs for using the nation's roads, including the damage caused by heavy vehicles.
Greater use of rail and coastal shipping for freight transport
We support greater use of rail and coastal shipping to transport freight. There also needs to be better coordination between different types of freight transport.
Recommendations to improve truck safety for road users
As trucks are over-represented in serious crashes, more emphasis needs to be given to improving truck safety for other road users. We're concerned that not all trucks have the same high safety standards and systems.
The AA recommends the following safety improvements:
- More overtaking opportunities such as passing lanes, slow vehicle bays and widened road shoulders for trucks to pull into to let other vehicles pass
- Restricting trucks to the slow lane on highways, and prohibiting trucks from certain passing lanes, for example travelling up hills Implementing maximum truck speeds on corners to reduce speeds and help prevent trucks rolling over or running off the road
- Compulsory fitting of under-run barriers on new trucks to prevent vehicles colliding beneath trucks at a more dangerous height for occupants
- Compulsory fitting of spray preventing 'skirts' to protect visibility for other road users in wet conditions If heavier trucks are allowed on New Zealand roads, operators and trucks must meet minimum safety standards including ABS brakes, electronic stability control, brake-code testing, air suspension and maximum
- Operator Safety Ratings Consider fitting speed governors to limit the maximum speed of trucks to 95 km/h