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Heavy vehicle road safety research scan

The fatal crash rate for articulated trucks like semitrailers improved more than 60 per cent between 1982 and 2007, according to this major report on heavy vehicle road safety.

The ATA commissioned the report from the Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR) at the University of Adelaide. The report was funded by the ATA Trust.

An improving safety record

The report confirms the industry is steadily getting safer.

The number of fatal crashes involving articulated trucks has remained relatively constant since 1991, but there has been a huge increase in the number of trucks on the road at the same time.

When the figures are adjusted to take this increase into account, they show a 60 per cent improvement in the fatal crash rate involving articulated trucks between 1982 and 2007.

The most significant gains in truck safety during this period were due to broad road safety initiatives that have improved safety for all road users, particularly improvements to the road network (including divided highways and sealed shoulders), reduced speed limits and improvements in vehicle design.

An authoritative reference guide to truck safety

The report is an authoritative reference guide to the research already done into truck safety, including on: road design, vehicle design, technology, electronic stability control, cabin strength, crashworthiness, aggressivity, seat belt use, rest areas, fatigue, licensing schemes, fitness for duty, driver distraction, speed management, intelligent speed adaptation, and accreditation schemes such as TruckSafe and NHVAS.

It consolidates 280 publications from CASR’s extensive road safety library and a series of academic databases.

Future research priorities

The report sifts through the evidence about truck safety and identifies the areas where further research could deliver the greatest safety gains at the lowest cost. It recommends four priority research areas: fatigue, seat belt use, road design and traffic management, and vehicle design and technology.


SJ Raftery, JAL Grigo and JE Woolley, Centre for Automotive Safety Research, University of Adelaide.

First published

22 July 2011. Media release.