Riders should be aware of truck blind spots, the possibility that drivers are on stimulants and that trucks may be unroadworthy, says a university expert.
Dr. Christopher Walker, a regulation and policy expert from UNSW Arts & Social Sciences, says Australia needs to put pressure on the trucking industry to improve safety standards.
He is also calling for truckies and all other road users to learn to share the road and be aware of the sight limitations of trucks and the vulnerability of riders.
Trucks are responsible for the deaths of more than 200 people a year in Australia and 4500 a year in the US.
International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion research shows trucks account for 8% of US highway traffic, yet are involved in 11% of fatal road crashes.
Professor Bill Russell, deputy director of Melbourne University’s Australasian Centre for the Governance and Management of Urban Transport, has said Australians would be safer if more freight was moved by rail.
His research showed that moving 10% more freight by rail would save 25 lives in Australia every year, and 100 serious injuries such as quadriplegia or brain damage.
In 2019, 53 Aussie truck drivers died on the job, with 34% being linked to fatigue.
Dr. Walker says it is not uncommon for drivers to haul loads and work beyond the 12-hour daily limit and an 80 or 100 hour plus working week is not uncommon. The legal limit is 72 hours over a seven-day period.
“I’ve interviewed truck drivers, and they’ve said to me, ‘I’d get my pay in one hand, and my pills in the other,” he says.
Motorbike Writer has published several articles about sharing the road with trucks and the dangers of their large blind spots which can easily lose the presence of a small motorcycle.
Dr. Walker says riders need to be aware of the dangers of trucks, but also says all road users, not just truckies, should be given education on sharing the road with motorcycles.
“All truck drivers are also car drivers and so their interaction with motorcycles on our roads can occur when they are operating a range of light and heavy vehicles,” he says.
“It would be important to highlight what particular concerns trucks present for motorcyclists but this should be part of an education package that is targeted at all road users and licence holders.
“This way all road users that share the road with motorcyclists have a better understanding of the challenges and risks they present for motorcyclists.”
Dr. Walker also says small trucking companies cut corners on costs and industry regulation is lacking with owner-operators only needing a truck licence, a truck and an ABN to start a trucking company in Australia.
“They don’t have to prove they’re financially viable or that they don’t have a compromised driving record,” he says, unlike in the UK where the industry is regulated through licensing in a process that is similar to the taxi industry in Australia.