The link between heavy vehicle maintenance and road safety

Thursday, 01 April, 2021

The link between heavy vehicle maintenance and road safety

Operators who effectively maintain their vehicles are less likely to be involved in an accident, according to a report from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and trucking insurer NTI. The trucking industry regulator and insurer have shared de-identified critical road crash data in order to improve road safety, minimise risk and create safer workplaces for truck drivers.

Data from NTI’s NTARC Major Accident Investigation Report and the NHVR’s National Roadworthiness Baseline Survey was examined to create a new report, which looks at the relationship between vehicle standards and safety performance.

The report examined 10 key areas — including brakes, couplings, steering and suspension, wheels and tyres, structure, seats, lights, mirrors, windscreens, and engine and driveline — to determine if there was a correlation between poor maintenance and increased claims frequency and cost.

The author of the report, NTI Transport & Logistics Risk Engineer Adam Gibson, noted that there was a 29% increase in frequency and a 22% increase in the cost of claims for transport companies with poorly maintained couplings. The frequency was also 32% higher than the baseline for wheel and tyre defects, while cost was 26% higher.

“It’s important to note this does not show crashes were caused by defects in those systems, but that operators with trucks in which couplings, wheels and tyres were not well maintained were involved in a greater number of claims. The link is correlative, not causative,” said Gibson.

Gibson added that one category yielded surprising results, with only a 3% higher frequency and 4% higher cost compared to the baseline for operators who had vehicles with defects in their braking system. Gibson attributed this to the way braking systems were tested in 2016, a process which has since undergone a significant overhaul.

NHVR Director of Vehicle Safety and Performance Peter Austin said the report highlights the importance of regular and effective maintenance regimes across the heavy vehicle fleet. Austin added that the report marks a step forward, with the expertise and insights shared across the regulator and insurer providing opportunities to reduce fatalities.

“The NHVR has a longstanding commitment to evidence-based enforcement, which is why we take a national, risk-based approach to checking whether heavy vehicles in the fleet are maintained. If we see a history of non-compliance, we intervene early and investigate further to prevent a potential accident from occurring,” said Austin.

The report comes months after NTI was named a recipient of the NHVR’s 2020 Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, a grant supported by the federal government.

Image credit: © Zajda

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