Heavy vehicle drivers will soon face more roadside drug tests and may face harsher sanctions for using their mobile phones whilst behind the wheel, under a new Queensland Government plan.
The 2019-21 Heavy Vehicle Safety Action Plan identifies a total of 36 heavy vehicle safety interventions across the following priority areas; safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and safer people.
The report states that due to the nature of their work, heavy vehicle drivers face an increased risk of health problems associated with stress, poor diet and a lack of exercise, and have a 7 per cent higher chance of developing depression than other Australians.
On top of this, research suggests drivers who have three or more medical conditions are up to four times more likely to be involved in a crash than healthier drivers.
“These issues may also lead drivers to the abuse of legal, prescription and/or illicit substances, which not only worsen the condition of their health, but can contribute to the likelihood of them having a crash.”
As such, the plan includes support of an increased and targeted roadside drug testing program, as well as more circulation of driver health and well-being resources.
On the issue of driver distraction, the plan makes not of the need to balance the known safety and productivity benefits of on-board/mobile devices, with their potential to contribute to safety risks.
“Driver distraction can include a ringing mobile phone (auditory distraction) and being lost in thought (cognitive distraction), but activities that cause visual distraction, such as looking away from the road whilst texting, are reported to be the most dangerous.”
“Data from international naturalistic driving studies suggest that driver distraction was a contributing factor in over 70 per cent of heavy vehicle crashes. With the advent of even more ubiquitous technologies appearing in the cabs of heavy vehicles, distraction for drivers is emerging as a serious safety risk.”
Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey, said the Queensland Government refused to accept that road trauma was an inevitable part of using the roads.
“Crashes involving heavy vehicles are more likely to result in serious outcomes. While there has been a general decline in fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles over the last five years (2013–2017), unfortunately this downward trend did not continue in 2018.”
The plan also advocates for fast-tracking mandatory safety technologies for new heavy vehicles including, collision avoidance systems, stability control for prime movers weighing 12 tonnes, stability control for trailers weighing more than 10 tonnes, autonomous emergency braking and under-run protection.
Recent research suggests that the mandatory application of Autonomous Emergency Braking Systems in heavy vehicles alone can prevent around 25% of fatal crashes.