What has gone wrong on NSW Roads?
A SHOCK spike in truck-related fatalities on NSW roads over the past year has left the industry wondering what went wrong - and conventional suggestions don't seem to add up.
The spike, as reported by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, was an 86.2% increase in deaths from crashes involving articulated trucks over the past year.
Not only was the period from September 2016-2017 the most significant increase since 2009, but it showed NSW was the only state not to have reduced its death toll (with the exception of NT, whose fatalities jumped from one to four in the same period).
The results, a jump from 26 to 54 deaths, has not been written off by the transport community as an unfortunate anomaly.
"The government's own report on the road safety watchdog showed it was cutting truck crashes by 28 per cent and yet it tore it down," TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon told the media in response to the finding.
"Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash still list this move as one of their great achievements since coming to power, yet it is clearly tainted with the blood of innocent lives."
However if the loss of the RSRT, a federal body, was the direct cause of the rise in fatality rates in NSW, an equal national increase could have been expected.
Others including Professor Ann Williamson, director of the Transport and Road Safety Research Centre at University of NSW's School of Aviation, suggested a higher exposure to heavy trucks might have been behind the spike.
"Most freight movement in Australia is by heavy truck and most of it moves along the eastern seaboard and through NSW, so this state is likely to see crashes simply due to higher exposure to heavy trucks," she wrote in an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
According to the latest ABS data available (2014), NSW does take on a significant amount of the national road freight task, 25.9 per cent in total.
Alongside Queensland which has the second highest national freight task at 22.8 per cent.
Queensland was also consistent in following NSW in the truck-related fatality stakes, marking the second highest toll rate to NSW most years. However this can explain a higher average, not a 12-month spike.
The number of trucks on NSW roads hasn't increased significantly either.
Heavy vehicle registrations in NSW for the 2016-2017 period increased by just 3.5 per cent and prime movers by 4.2 per cent (RMS).
Licence registrations have also received no major increase from Sept 2016-2017 in NSW.
RMS Figures even show the registration of Heavy Combination licences have gone down in the state.
HR +1.42 per cent
HC - 0.48 per cent
MC +3.55 per cent
Australian Trucking Association chief of staff Bill McKinley said more research needs to be done to explain the increase.
"The number of deaths in articulated truck crashes fell in Victoria (-4.5 per cent), Queensland (-14.8 per cent), South Australia (-23.1 per cent) and Tasmania (-80 per cent). These states all have exactly the same fatigue system as NSW," he said.
"Most of the increase in deaths was in multi-vehicle crashes. We know that about 80 per cent of multi-vehicle crashes involving trucks are not the fault of the truck driver.
"And although drivers work long hours, their work time is very tightly regulated. They have to keep detailed records and must stop and take breaks regularly.
"The terrible spike in deaths in NSW and the uncertainty about why it happened shows that Australia needs a better system for investigating road crashes involving trucks.
"These crashes will all be the subject of coronial inquiries, but those inquiries won't take place for years. And when the coroners do make recommendations, they are likely to be noted and then ignored."
Mr McKinley suggests the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's role should be extended to include serious crashes involving trucks.
"As the first step, the Australian Government should invest $4.3million over the next four years to establish a national database of coronial recommendations about road safety and a national database of serious truck accidents," he said.
"In the longer term, the ATSB should be tasked with conducting no-blame investigations of serious truck accidents where safety lessons can be learnt."