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Heavy vehicle road safety: Research scan

SJ Raftery, JAL Grigo, JE Woolley



July 2011

Report documentation


CASR100 July 2011 110 978 1 921645 37 2 1449-2237


Heavy vehicle road safety: Research scan


SJ Raftery, JAL Grigo, JE Woolley

Performing Organisation

Centre for Automotive Safety Research

The University of Adelaide

South Australia 5005


Sponsored By

Australian Trucking Association

Minter Ellison Building

Ground Floor

25 National Circuit FORREST

ACT 2603.

Available From

Centre for Automotive Safety Research


The number of registered heavy vehicles (HV) in Australia has risen 22% since 2005 and, with the national freight task projected to double by 2030, the number of HVs on Australian roads is set to continue to increase. In the 12 months to the end of June 2010 crashes involving heavy vehicles resulted in 239 fatalities while around one third of all work-related road crash fatalities occur within the freight industry. Heavy vehicle safety for both the trucking industry and the general community remains an important issue. In recognition of this the Australian Trucking Association has commissioned a research scan to develop a knowledge base that may be used to guide the strategic direction and development of effective outcomes in the area of heavy vehicle safety. The scan focussed on five key areas: factors associated with HV crashes, road and vehicle design, human and social factors, speed management and enforcement, and the effectiveness of accreditation schemes. This scan identified a number of gaps in knowledge and recommendations for future research were suggested in the areas of fatigue, seat belt use, traffic management, and technology.


Heavy vehicle, truck, safety, crashes, road safety


Trucks are a common sight on Australian roads, be it rural highways or the arterial roads of major cities and towns. Statistics from the ABS (2011) indicate that the number of registered heavy vehicles (HVs) in Australia has grown by 22% since 2005. Projections indicate that Australia’s freight task is set to at least double by 2030; the number of HVs on Australian roads is set to rise in line with this. In the 12 months to the end of June 2010, HVs were involved in 194 crashes throughout Australia resulting in 239 fatalities. Furthermore, around one third of all work-related road crash fatalities occur in the freight industry. HV safety remains an important issue to address for the HV industry and the community. In recognition of this the Australian Trucking Association has commissioned a research scan in order to develop a knowledge base that may be used to guide the strategic direction and development of effective outcomes in the arena of heavy vehicle safety.

This scan focussed on five key aspects of HV safety:

  • factors associated with HV crashes

  • road and vehicle design

  • human and social factors

  • speed management and enforcement

  • the effectiveness of accreditation schemes.

An overview of findings is provided below.

HV crashes

The most common types of HV crash were single vehicle crashes involving leaving the road or rolling over. The most common factors involved in HV crashes are speed, the mechanical condition of the vehicle (particularly brakes), and the characteristics of the load being carried (including overloading). Human factors such as fatigue, substance use, and driver distraction are more commonly identified for HV drivers who are responsible for a crash than those HV drivers who are not responsible for a crash.

Currently, leading road safety nations have adopted a systems based approach to road safety which is based on the principle that road users make mistakes and that the road system needs to better accommodate these mistakes when they occur. Governments will be using the Safe Systems approach to road safety when considering heavy vehicle road safety over the next decade.

Road and vehicle design

The horizontal alignment of curves and other design features of roads represent safety hazards for HV drivers. The provision of shoulder sealing is one way this issue may be tackled providing benefit not only for heavy vehicles but other vehicle types as well. Other risks can be addressed through vehicle design, particularly the use of on-board warning systems and crash avoidance technologies to improve the stability and control of the vehicle.

The design of HVs is such that they have high aggressivity, presenting a significant risk to other road users, and poor crashworthiness, presenting a risk to HV occupants. Improvement in either or both of these areas would produce safety benefits.

Human and social factors

Fatigue is an issue of primary concern for the HV industry, and particularly so for long haul drivers. A number of advancements in knowledge and management of fatigue have been made however, there is room for improvement.

The prevalence of substance use among HV drivers is generally comparable to rates observed in the general driving population throughout Australia, however the use of stimulant substances (such as amphetamines) is more common among HV drivers as they tend to be used to combat the effects of fatigue. Little is known with regard to HV drivers use of prescription medications to treat medical conditions, nor the effects of these on HV crashes.

Heavy vehicle drivers also have a higher risk of some general and mental health problems.

Speed management and enforcement

Speed is an issue for heavy vehicle safety. Low level speeding among HVs is more common than extreme speeding. The use of speed limiters and Intelligent Speed Assist technologies (ISA) offer safety benefits with regard to the management of HV speeds.

High visibility police enforcement operations effectively reduce speeds in targeted areas however, these effects are short lived once the operation has ceased. Speed cameras have been shown to effectively reduce crashes and lower average speeds on roads where they are installed.

Accreditation schemes

Evidence indicates accreditation schemes such as the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) and TruckSafe have improved the safety of the accredited organisations.

Overview and conclusions

A number of knowledge gaps were identified in order to provide direction for future research. Four key recommendations for future research were provided. These included research that:

  • Improves the management of fatigue within the HV industry.

  • Improve the use of seat belts among HV occupants.

  • Evaluates the effectiveness of HV traffic management schemes under Australian conditions (mainly in relation to lane use and speed management).

  • Evaluates the effectiveness of emerging HV safety technologies.


1 Introduction 1

1.1 Organisation of the report 4

1.2 Presentation of results 4

2 Research scan methodology 6

3 Heavy vehicle crashes 8

3.1 Gaps in research 20

4 Road and vehicle design, and infrastructure planning 21

4.1 Gaps in research 36

5 Human and social factors 38

5.1 Gaps in research 53

6 Speed management and enforcement 57

6.1 Gaps in research 63

7 Accreditation schemes 64

7.1 Gaps in research 68

8 Overview and conclusions 69

8.1 Heavy vehicle crashes 69

8.2 Road and vehicle design 69

8.3 Human and social factors 70

8.4 Speed management and enforcement 70

8.5 Accreditation schemes 70

8.6 Recommendations for future research 70

8.7 Closing comments 71

Acknowledgements 72

References 73


ABS Australian bureau of statistics

ABS Anti-lock braking system(s)

ACC Adaptive cruise control

AFM Advanced fatigue management

AVCSS Advanced vehicle control and safety systems

BFM Basic fatigue management

BITRE Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Economics

BMI Body mass index

CDL Commercial driver's licence

CPAP Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

DSL Differential speed limit

DSRC Dedicated short range communication

EBS Electronically controlled braking system

ESC Electronic stability control

ESP Electronic stability program

EWD Electronic work diary

FCW Forward collision warning

FMCSA Federal motor carrier safety administration

FMP Fatigue management program

GPS Global positioning system

GVM Gross vehicle mass

GVWR Gross vehicle weight rating

HGV Heavy goods vehicle

HOS Hours of service

HV Heavy vehicle

HVDF Heavy vehicle driver fatigue

IAP Intelligent access program

ISA Intelligent speed adaptation

ITS Intelligent transport system

LCM Lane change merge

LDW Lane departure warning

LOC Loss of control

LTCCS Large truck crash causation study

LV Light vehicle

MCMIS Motor carrier management information system

NHTSA National highway traffic safety administration

NHVAS National heavy vehicle accreditation scheme

NTC National transport commission

NTI National transport insurance

NZHVBC New Zealand heavy vehicle brake code

OApps Oral appliances

OBM on-board mass-monitoring

OOS Out of service

PBS Performance based standards

RSC Roll stability control

RVS Rearview video system

TFMS Transitional fatigue management scheme

UPPP Uvulopharyngopalatoplasty (a surgical procedure to change the shape of the pharynx)

USL Uniform speed limit

VSS Vehicle stability systems

WIM Weigh-in-motion

YSC Yaw stability control

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