In Victoria in 2019, there were approximately 800 crashes involving a heavy vehicle.
Approximately 100 of these crashes (12.5%) involved a rollover event. Half of these rollover crashes were single vehicle crashes and half were multi-vehicle crashes.
Approximately one-third of the rollover crashes occurred in Metropolitan Melbourne while an alarming two-thirds occurred in rural Victoria. Over half of the rollover crashes (51 or 60%) occurred in speed zones of 100 km/h or greater.
We are currently unable to provide a current national picture of the heavy vehicle rollover problem.
The annual reports about heavy truck crashes do not reveal any information about the prevalence, cause and location of rollover crashes which plague Australia annually.
We do not currently have the data nor the mechanism to understand key heavy vehicle crash types and particularly the effects of rollovers on road trauma and related cost.
ARRB continues to promote the necessity for a national crash investigation body in Australia who systematically investigates heavy vehicle crashes - engaging with industry is a key part of this advocacy role.
Despite the number of rollover crashes involving heavy trucks, there is currently no mandated design criteria which mandates rollover crashworthiness for heavy trucks (Australian Design Rule). While most of us driving around in a passenger car will be afforded the protection of advanced side and rollover impact airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners (belts which deploy a pyrotechnic device to remove seatbelt slack and the maintenance of cabin structural integrity), heavy truck occupants are often provided with minimal crash protection.
In 2012, the United States Congress directed the improvement of commercial vehicle safety and in 2015 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported to Congress that heavy vehicle crashworthiness should be improved (the report which backstops these findings can be found here).
While there is considerable evidence of the benefits of improved heavy vehicle occupant rollover protection, research efforts have not been translated into adequate rollover safety standards in the USA or in Australia. This lack of a robust standard is borne disproportionately by the heavy truck driver when a crash occurs.
The 2015 NHTSA study found that approximately 36% of heavy vehicle rollover crashes are fatal to the truck driver and approximately 41% of rollover crashes result in incapacitating injury.
A rollover is not only damaging to heavy vehicle occupants, but also perilous for the valuable cargo being carried … and we all pay the price. Nationally, despite heavy trucks making up only 3.13% of registered vehicles and 7.2% of vehicle kilometres travelled, 22% of the $9.38 billion in property damage costs per year (BITRE, 2016 data) are borne by heavy trucks.
The Heavy Truck Rollover Course (endorsed by the Victorian Department of Transport) provides practical education for people and companies on the impact of truck rollover crashes, identification of root causes and effects and outlines practical mitigation measures for future prevention. This program includes a review of relevant Codes of Practice and Occupational Health and Safety applications in the heavy vehicle on-road environment. The training is customised to each attendee in order to ensure maximum safety benefit in reducing truck rollovers, crash risk and associated crash-related costs.