Feds deliver on safer trucks

Bike riders have had a massive win following the announcement by the Australian government today that new safety standards for trucks will come into effect next week.

Bicycle Network has campaigned for side underrun protection on trucks in Australia for more than a decade.

"We managed to get them on construction trucks used in major projects in the big cities, but the rest of the national truck fleet remained a hazard to riders everywhere, says Bicycle Network CEO Alison McCormack.

Protective railings that prevent riders falling under trucks were knocked back by federal government transport regulators for years, despite being an internationally proven safety measure and having support from major trucking organisations.

"Collisions with trucks have always been a concerning proportion of road deaths and serious injuries involving bike riders and pedestrians," says McCormack.

"Other safety issues with trucks, especially blind spots, have appeared on the radar more recently as trucks and their often long trailers became more common on urban streets."

The changes come into effect on 1 October, but it will take time for the new vehicles to filter through as the industry replaces older vehicles in the fleet.

The new truck safety features have been combined with changes to truck dimension standards, which will allow slightly wider Euro-standard trucks to be used unmodified in Australia.

The Safer Freight Vehicles package includes an increase to the overall width limit from 2.50 to 2.55 metres for new trucks that are fitted with a number of safety features.

These safety features include devices to reduce blind spots, electronic stability control, advanced emergency braking, a lane-departure warning system, better reflective markings, and side guards to stop pedestrians and cyclists from being caught up under the rear wheels of trucks.

Additionally, a number of safety devices and sensors will be able to be fitted to trucks without counting towards the width and length measurements.

This includes front and kerb view mirrors to better see around the front-left corner of the vehicle, external parts of camera monitor systems for improved indirect vision, blind spot sensors, and cross-view mirrors to see in front of bonneted vehicles.

This will ensure manufacturers and owners are not disadvantaged by fitting trucks with these road safety technologies.

Federal Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Carol Brown said: “This Safer Freight Vehicles package responds to direct calls from industry to increase the width limit of trucks and follows extensive public consultation and feedback.

“These changes will be a real game changer for industry, businesses and other road users, as they will save lives by adopting technology to reduce the likelihood of crashes, while also lowering freight costs and supporting better environmental outcomes.

“Our truckies play a vital role in the Australian economy and our day-to-day lives, ensuring we can access the food, medicines and other goods we need.

“Today’s announcement will mean they can carry out their work more safely and efficiently, so they and those they share the road with can get home safely at the end of each trip.”

McCormack says Bicycle Network has worked long and hard behind the scenes to see these critical changes implemented.

"Today’s adoption of safety measures will save the lives of bike riders across Australia. Including side underrun protection and blind-spot improvements in the new vehicle standards is a breakthrough.

“We are greatly appreciative of the fresh approach to vulnerable road user safety now underway at the federal level, which will bring Australia much closer to the safer heavy vehicle standards already proven internationally.

“And it’s also a win for the trucking sector which now has a better choice of safer, more efficient trucks and trailers.”

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