At the recent National Bulk Tanker Association webinar, National Transport Insurance Transport and Risk Engineer, Adam Gibson, spoke about the NTI’s latest accident investigation report.
Gibson started by displaying a graph which showed heavy vehicle involved fatalities per billion tonne-kilometre since 2003. The graph showed a steady downward trend from a high of between 1.5 and 2.0 deaths in 2003 to between 0.5 and 1.0 death in 2018.
“Around half to two thirds of people who lose their lives in these incidents are car drivers who are at fault,” said Gibson.
“You can see over the long term there is a distinctly positive in the downward sense trend – fewer people are dying in incidents involving trucks for the given volume of freight we transport in Australia.
“Providing an international context is very interesting, and it suggests Australia has probably the safest road transport industry in the world.”
Moving to the next topic, Cause of Large Losses Over Time, Gibson outlined a sharp increase in driver error caused losses.
“It’s basically gone from 20 to 40 per cent over a four-year period from 2015 to 2019 which is of great concern,” he said.
“Looking inside of that, we have a real issue that we are not yet on top of around inattention and distraction.”
Gibson pointed out that the statistics for driver error in bulk tanker related accidents, also at 40 per cent in 2019, virtually mirrored those of the overall mix of heavy vehicle driver error related losses.
“The one exception is inappropriate speed incidents which usually involve rollovers, and it’s not a great surprise due to the dynamics of tankers to see a higher level there,” said Gibson.
He qualified this by adding that this statistic included all bulk tankers including dry powder, non-Dangerous Goods (DG) and milk tankers.
“The DG sector has been the notable leader in the bulk tanker realm with its requirement for roll stability program (RSP) on the combinations which dramatically reduces the incidence of inappropriate speed related losses.”
Another difference he noted was that the average large loss (over $50,000) incident cost for bulk tankers is $180,000 compared to $120,000 for all other vehicle categories.
Revisiting the inattention and distraction topic, Gibson said in recent years it has jumped from seven per cent to 14 per cent in terms of being deemed a contributing factor in large losses in a year.
“It’s hard to prove but it’s also hard not to feel that mobile phones and technology-based distractions are significantly driving that result, and again this applies similarly to the bulk tanker segment as to the overall heavy vehicle statistics.”
Gibson suggested we have a cultural issue in that mobile phone use whilst driving still remains socially acceptable to far too many people across the broader population.
He contended that we need a concerted campaign to negatively stigmatise it, similar to what was done to discourage people from drink driving in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.