Trucks rarely to blame in fatality crashes

By Belinda Feek

It is usually not the truck driver's fault when big rigs crash. Photo / File
It is usually not the truck driver's fault when big rigs crash. Photo / File

Trucks are involved in nearly a quarter of all fatal crashes but, most of the time, they are not at fault.

The Ministry of Transport's Trucks 2015 report shows trucks were involved in 23 per cent of all fatal crashes and 7 per cent of all reported injuries on roads in 2014, yet only responsible for 35 per cent of those fatals.

Trucking organisations says they cop a lot of flak yet statistics show the number of fatal crashes involving a truck for every 100 million kilometres driven has dropped by a third of what it was in the early 1990s.

Ken Shirley of the Road Transport Forum says there is a lot of public antagonism towards truckies.

"When you look at who causes the accidents and do analysis, most often it's the other motorist's fault."

He says the most "silly" mistake motorists made was trying to pass a truck at the end of a passing lane.

"If a truck pulls over into the shoulder and the trailer goes off the tarmac it will pull the truck over -- it will roll it. It's very hard to get a trailer back once it's off the tarmac."

Then there's the toll on drivers involved in a fatal crash, which can lead to some committing suicide.

"That's the other aspect that isn't often told: it can be shattering for the driver of the truck. [Some] drivers throw the job in and they're emotionally damaged. It can be quite horrendous. The worst was where a driver committed suicide a few days after being involved in a fatality that he wasn't responsible for."

One Waikato truck driver, who has more than 20 years' experience across three countries, could only sit in his cab and watch a horrific fatal involving a motorcyclist on State Highway 1 at Huntly this year.

He says the motorcyclist pulled out to overtake the truck at the same time the truck pulled out to overtake a slower vehicle. The rider was thrown into the wire medium barrier and killed instantly.

"People just don't give enough space around trucks. They have the whole highway to pull across in front of you and what do they do? They pull right in underneath you. Sometimes they are so close to my front bumper I can only see the roof of the car."

New Zealand Truck Association chief executive Dave Boyce says they're trying to do their bit by educating both drivers and the public after launching their Share the Road Safely with Big Trucks educational campaign in which they've worked alongside cycling advocacy groups CAN and Spokes.

He says the fact most fatal crashes involving trucks are not caused by trucks shows that a lot of people don't know how to be safe on the road with the big vehicles.

The ministry's report also states that the more serious crash, the less likely it was the truck driver had caused it.

Most - 81 per cent - of the people who died were not truck occupants.

NZ Transport Agency's road safety director Harry Wilson says the trucking fleet got safer over the past three years as older models were taken off the roads and replaced with 7000 newer, safer trucks.

He says some trucks can also carry more freight, previously 44 tonnes but now up to 50 tonnes, which has created a more efficiency freight service across the country.


- NZ Herald

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