Every edition, Roads & Infrastructure puts a question forward to industry leaders and decision makers on topics central to the road and infrastructure industry. For the August Roads Review column, we asked road construction industry leaders: ‘What can we do better in Australia to improve road safety?’
Whilst we need to continue all our current road safety efforts, we also need to explore other areas including work related road safety, education and community ownership. By improving the focus on work related road safety, we could potentially make significant reductions in road trauma generally. Education needs to start much earlier with a series of learning opportunities for school students to discover how to be better road users, well before getting a licence. Strengthening community ownership is also a vital ingredient. Increased efforts must be made in engaging greater awareness and community involvement in improving road safety.
Local government is responsible for approximately 678,000 kilometres or 77 per cent of the total road length in Australia. Two thirds (460,000 kilometres) of local government-controlled roads are managed by 360 councils that serve populations less than 30,000. These councils are predominately in the rural and remote regions and arguably carry the greatest burden in reducing all road crashes due to their resource constraints. It should therefore be an imperative that adequate numbers of people with enough expertise and experience in the engineering, scientific and other professional areas relevant to road safety are engaged in improving road safety outcomes.
Integrate safety. Safety has been seen for many years as an afterthought – a bolt-on product that is added at the end of the process. It is time to start embedding safety throughout the road life cycle – to consider safety and innovation when we first build a road. What is the ideal road stereotype for this type of road that will result in zero harm? When we build the road, should we consider high friction surfaces at critical locations? When we maintain and resurface an existing road, can we widen and add a painted wide centreline and new edge lines at the same time? When we work on the road how can we support road safety initiatives in construction and maintenance activities, keeping our road workers out of harm’s way? We can all do better by starting with safe outcomes as the performance goal every time we design, construct, maintain and rehabilitate our road system.
One area that needs more focus to improve road safety is load restraint. There is significant variability between companies and industries nationally, and what we see is freight falling off trucks. Coates has developed a Load Restraint Guide specific to our operations and has been running training sessions for our own people and our transport partners to great success. Creating a standardised safe approach and training operators is critical to gaining ground. Each industry segment knows what works best for them practically and when this experience is coupled with technical expertise, we can collectively solve this problem – load by load.
Road safety is a top priority for the roads industry in Australia as deaths and injuries on our roads generate significant social and economic costs. SAMI Bitumen Technologies is continuously striving to contribute to road safety through innovation of its bituminous products partnering closely with the asphalt contractors. The cooperative work is reflected in designing more durable and safer asphalt surface courses such as high friction and porous water draining asphalt mixes and also supplying bituminous binders with improved aggregate retention for spray sealing applications. Better aggregate retention will improve the skid resistance in roads, with consequential benefits for the road users’ safety.
As someone that has worked for the Australian Automobile Association, it is my view that road safety depends on safer roads, safer cars and safer drivers. The AusRAP program shows us how to achieve the most effective engineering improvements to roads to save lives in the most cost-effective manner. The ANCAP program likewise encourages vehicle manufacturers to constantly improve vehicle safety, and driver education and enforcement measures ensure safer drivers.
Brandon Hitch, CEO, Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA).
Certain states in Australia are better than others at working with the heavy
vehicle industry to find workable solutions to improve road safety. Tasmania has a sophisticated Heavy Vehicle Access Management System which uses engineering formulas to automatically assess structures and cranes and presents one road network to industry with a set of conditions of access throughout thestate. The system provides a common, transparent and equitable access platform that is used by road managers and crane operators alike to negotiate the most productive, efficient and safe way of travelling to and from a site. In stark contrast, the Queensland ‘single trip’ permit application process is unreasonably difficult and burdensome. Road assets in Queensland are deteriorated to such an extent that heavy vehicle access is inefficient, putting road users at greater risk as heavy vehicles need to navigate ‘work arounds.’
This column initially appeared in the August edition of Roads & Infrastructure magazine. Read the magazine here.
If you or anyone in your organisation are interested in contributing to the column, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org