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Australians need to change how we look at truck accidents

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Uni lecturer says we need to chance how we look at crashes
Uni lecturer says we need to chance how we look at crashes

AUSTRALIAN trucking industry is diverse, dangerous and essential for every person in Australia, by way of the fuel in their cars, the cars themselves, the groceries in the supermarket and the list goes on.

However, as soon as a truck is involved in an accident it is naturally assumed, with the help of the media, that the truck driver caused the accident because there appears to be a common belief that people cause accidents, not machines.

Even though the legislation that defines the accident investigation tells us that the accident was caused by driver error, vehicle condition or the influence of others, we can no longer limit our thinking to the fact that every accident involving a truck is that simple.

It could be said that the template used by every agency that investigates truck accidents is the reason that most people blame the truck driver because the investigation will always starts at the accident scene and work backwards, collecting the evidence along the way.

This means that the legislation the police and others use to  guide the investigation to assess all the legal requirements of what is expected safe driving; by way of drug and alcohol tests, work diaries, load restraints, the driver's licence that matches the vehicle, using or being distracted by a mobile phone or laptop and the numerous other conditions that are listed in the legislation across the country.

The problem is that very little is known about what may influence a sequence of events that led to the accident and without this understanding it may not be possible to accurately describe what caused the truck accident.

To develop a new truck accident investigation process, we need to look past the current thinking and while the ATA in a recent Big Rigs article proposed the ATSB take control of investigations, they said not every truck accident.

So, who decides which accidents warrant the ATSB and which ones don't or are we just adding another agency to eight we already have?

Presuming that truck drivers like every other driver is prone to making errors in judgment when driving and these errors may cause the accident, the truck driver and the truck they drive are only very small parts in the movement of freight and with each kilometre travelled, these environments will constantly change.

While there is a need to identify the actual cause of the accident without looking into the influence from the road transport system and the supply chain ecosystem, the ability to find the answer may not be possible.

To change how we look at the truck accident, we must understand that the framework which envelopes the industry has not yet realised that the driver is only a consequence and not the cause of the accident because humans will always make mistakes.

Even though it has been hinted for several years, no accident investigation model can be developed that expects every road user to adapt to the system which will allow for practical strategies to be developed that can reduce the number of truck accidents which will occur in the future.

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