Peak transport body Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) has called on the Federal Government and relevant departments to convene a special industry-led national working group to better educate motorists on interacting with heavy vehicles, in order to reduce the number of road accidents estimated to be costing the Australian economy $33 billion a year.
Appearing before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiring into road safety in Australia, RFNSW General Manager Simon O’Hara said: “Greater engagement and education on the roads, particularly with regard to light vehicles is essential.
“Preventable deaths are a tragedy, the question is what we do about it,” Mr O’Hara told the hearing.
“RFNSW, along with the ATA, has issued a list of ‘Top 10 Tips’ advising the motoring public on how to drive safely with heavy vehicles on the roads. One of those tips is distracted driving, with studies showing that 80% of collisions are caused by motorists whose attention is taken away from the road by their passengers, phones, GPS, radio, eating drinking and smoking.
“Alarmingly, distractions are now deemed to be the single biggest cause of crashes and near misses, with road users who take their eyes off the road for two seconds or longer, doubling their crash risk. If drivers get that message and pay attention, that’s one simple way of trying to achieve safer roads for all users alike.
“RFNSW wants safety to be the cornerstone of what truck drivers do each and every day.
“RFNSW recommends the establishment of a working committee to scope out better ways to educate light vehicle users and cyclists in their interactions with heavy vehicle users for the purposes of attaining safer roads. We believe appropriate funding also be set aside for greater engagement and public awareness to educate road users and inform them on how to properly interact with heavy vehicles.”
At the hearing, Mr O’Hara also raised another critical issue impacting carriers – crippling new surcharges being imposed by stevedores DP World Australia and Patrick on truck operators at Port Botany.
“A large proportion of the rationale for these charges, as we understand it, is around rent increases. But only last week we learnt from NSW Ports that rent has actually decreased at the Ports from 2013 (pre-privatisation) to 2017,” he explained.
“RFNSW believes these port charges place further pressures on an industry already working with slim profits and costly overheads.
This questionable behaviour from the stevedores should be properly explained and built on a firm foundation of empirical evidence that justifies the rationale for this additional financial burden on carriers.
Ultimately, the consumer in one form or another pays the cost and if road transport users can’t understand why they are being taxed (and invoiced early) for using the stevedores – then perhaps the Australian consumer who will likely bear these costs deserves an explanation.”