Sarah Harvey

Study shows speed causes nearly 15% of single truck crashes

THE latest NTI National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) findings show the top cause of single vehicle truck crashes is speed.

In this study which continues an ongoing series of investigative research, NTARC has analysed most heavy motor losses, managed by the insurer, over $5000 between 2011 and 2015.

National Director of Research Owen Driscoll confirmed this culminated the largest ever study into heavy vehicle incidents across Australia.

"This analysis reviewed 14,000 incidents where NTI contributed close to $500m over a five year period," he said.

"Of course, this will be the precursor to the early 2017 release of the seventh in the series of Major Truck Crash Incidents over $50,000, which NTARC publishes biennially.

"Whilst we have not reviewed those incidents off the network involving farming, mining and earthmoving sectors, this is the first study where we have independently identified specific State results.

"Furthermore, our research previously has been limited to larger losses and with the focus of this study for generally all on-road losses, the findings are quite interesting."

Results showed 44% of reported incidents were single vehicle accidents, with the remainder involving one or more third party vehicles.

In single vehicle crashes, the top four causes were:

  • inappropriate speed for the prevailing conditions - 14.4%
  • fatigue influenced crashes - 7.4%
  • mechanical, although the majority related to tyre failure and non-accident related fires, - 7.2%
  • animal strike - one out of every seven reported single vehicle accidents involve hitting animals, mostly cattle and kangaroos.

In multiple vehicle incidents, which accounted for 56% of the total, they found:

  • in 68% of the reports, the truck was responsible for the loss, although NTI noted that in fatal incidents involving other traffic, the lighter vehicle is usually held to account
  • 34% of the incidents involved the heavy vehicle impacting the rear of the other vehicle
  • in 14% of the cases, the insured unit struck third parties when changing lanes
  • in 11% the driver of the heavy vehicle failed to give way

In reported losses involving mechanical and vehicle operating issues:

  • tyre failure due to over or under inflation, heat, road conditions or defects accounted for 32% of reported incidents with consequential vehicle damage.
  • one in every five losses on this issue were contributed to truck or trailer fires, with the seat causal factor usually wiring and electrical.
  • there is an increasing trend in turntable / ring failure due to incorrect coupling, higher stress factors associated with increased capacity of dog trailers and general maintenance to cover wear and tear. This accounted for 17% of associated mechanical issues.
  • Losses attributed to brake and steering failure were inconsequential.


Otherwise it was established that:


  • in States such as NSW and Victoria where traffic density is proportionately higher, we experienced more incidents involving third parties.
  • leading to a crash incident rate of one loss per 37 items insured in NSW, in contrast to the Northern Territory where it was one incident for every 66 items. Suffice to say though, the average cost of losses in the NT was substantially greater.
  • as is the case with the Major Crash studies, most incidents occur on outbound journeys from home base and usually early in the week.
  • whilst December was consistently the quietest month, there was no specific month that was noted as any worse than the other.


And when it came to the average ages of drivers involved:


  • the oldest come from Queensland and the youngest from the NT.
  • overall nationally, the average age was 45 years 248 days.
  • 40% were over the age of 50 years with one in every 4.2 drivers in the study were over 55.
  • those under 25 years recorded 4% of losses, not indicative of the quality of their driving, but rather indicative of the fact that proportionally this industry does not attract many from this age group.  
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