Introduction and overview
Conduct of the inquiry
On 30 October 2014, the Senate referred the following matter to the
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee (the committee)
for inquiry and report by 9 September 2015:
Aspects of road safety in Australia, having particular regard
social and economic cost of road-related injury and death;
importance of design standards on imported vehicles, as Australian vehicle
manufacturing winds down;
impact of new technologies and advancements in understanding of vehicle design
and road safety;
different considerations affecting road safety in urban, regional and rural
The Senate granted extensions of time for reporting on 13 August 2015,
for reporting by 26 November 2015, on 15 September 2015 for reporting
by 2 March 2016 and on 29 February 2016 for reporting by 3 June 2016.
On 9 May 2016, the inquiry lapsed with the dissolution of the Senate and
the House of Representatives for a general election on 2 July 2016.
On 15 September 2016, the Senate re-referred the inquiry to the
committee with a reporting date of 18 October 2017.
On 17 October 2017, the Senate granted a further extension for reporting to 26
After the inquiry was advertised on the committee's website and in The Australian
on 4 February 2015, the committee received 75 submissions from interested
organisations and individuals. Submissions are listed in Appendix 1 and are
available on the committee's website.
Appendix 2 lists the persons and organisations who gave evidence at the
committee's public hearings, which were held in:
Sydney on 2 July 2015 and 26 June 2017;
Melbourne on 3 July 2015;
Adelaide on 26 October 2015;
Perth on 18 February 2016; and
Canberra on 14 August 2015, 25 February 2016, 22 March 2016,
10 November 2016, 15 February 2017, 8 and 29 August 2017.
The committee thanks all contributors to the inquiry, including those individuals
and organisations who provided evidence to the committee on several occasions.
The committee tabled a substantive interim report on 3 May 2016. The
interim report made 17 recommendations (at Appendix 3) in relation to:
the social and economic cost of road deaths and injuries, including
the impact on vulnerable road user groups;
the role of design standards and emerging road safety technology;
road safety challenges in regional and rural areas and the
adequacy of driver education throughout Australia; and
emerging issues for the heavy vehicle industry, including licensing,
training and accreditation for Australian and overseas drivers.
The committee notes that at the time of tabling this report, a
government response to the interim report had yet to be provided, despite the
requirement for the Government to respond to committee reports within three
months of tabling.
Structure of the final report
Issues relating to the heavy vehicle industry were at the centre of the
committee's inquiry into aspects of road safety in Australia. As hearings
progressed, new and startling evidence emerged about the dangerous behaviour of
individual drivers, together with systemic failures in administration and
policy. To make these matters worse, the abolition of the Road Safety
Remuneration Tribunal (by legislation on 18 April 2016) removed a much-needed
layer of protection for the industry.
Longstanding issues for the heavy vehicle industry with regard to
overseas drivers, including licensing, training and visa status, are discussed
in Chapter 2 of this report. It is the committee's view that these issues will
only be exacerbated in a less regulated environment.
Chapter 3 considers the need to find economic solutions for an industry
facing a high road toll from truck crashes and a shortage of skilled drivers.
It discusses the need for broad consensus to prioritise chain of responsibility
laws, the use of electronic work diaries and to provide for 30 day minimum
In Chapter 4, the committee examines the gap between the ideal and
reality with regard to heavy vehicle training in Australia and the need for a
better national scheme.
Road safety policy and national coordination
Transport Infrastructure Council
and National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020
In its interim report of May 2016, the committee noted that Australia
does not have a unified road safety system. Each state and territory is
responsible for its own road network and has implemented model legislation which
is overseen by a range of cross‑jurisdictional agencies. To provide for a
'coordinated and integrated' approach, the national Transport and
Infrastructure Council (TIC) was established by the Council of Australian
Governments (COAG) in 2013.
Evidence to the committee suggested that there is a strong commitment to
the Safe System approach
as outlined in the National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020
(the strategy) and endorsed by the TIC.
Some submitters, however, queried whether the approach meets the needs of
vulnerable road users, including cyclists and motorcyclists. The committee made
recommendations in its interim report to strengthen the protections available to
these vulnerable road user groups.
Under the strategy, jurisdictions have committed to achieving a
30 per cent annual reduction of road‑related deaths and serious
injuries by 2020.
The strategy presents a 10-year plan to reduce the annual numbers of both
deaths and serious injuries on Australian roads.
The committee is seriously concerned by recent evidence which suggests
that progress towards a reduction in road deaths has slowed. When questioned
during Budget Estimates in May 2017, the Department of Infrastructure and
Regional Development (DIRD) provided evidence that, rather than trending
towards the targeted 30 per cent, an annual reduction of nine per cent had been
achieved. Deputy Secretary, Ms Judith Zielke, stated:
...we have had a recent change in trends in relation to road
deaths. In particular, we have gone from a situation where we had achieved
almost 18 per cent against that 30 per cent in relation to the target we
had set. More recently our figures have actually deteriorated down to only nine
per cent as against that 30 per cent.
This worrying trend has not gone unnoticed by the Australian community.
The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) highlighted in its December 2016
report Benchmarking the performance of the national road safety strategy
...in the year to December 2016, there was a 7.9 per cent
increase in the number of deaths on our roads. This means the annual road toll
for December 2016 is the worst since March 2013, and the same as May 2011. In
effect, these results are little better than when the NRSS was agreed to more
than five years ago. In total in 2016 1,300 people died on our roads, 95 more
than in 2015.
The AAA's June 2017 benchmarking report recorded 'a decrease of 1.3 per
cent' in the 12 months to June 2017, concluding that 'the strategy will
not deliver the targeted 30 per cent reduction in road deaths'.
Review of the National Road Safety
Noting the lack of progress in reducing the road toll, the committee
awaits the results of a review into progress against the strategy. The
committee was informed that on 19 May 2017, the TIC agreed to establish an
independent reference group to 'inquire into progress under the National Road
Safety Strategy 2011–2020'.
The Secretary of DIRD, Mr Mike Mrdak, explained that:
The minister agreed with his state colleagues to appoint an
expert panel to review our progress on the National Road Safety Strategy. That
will be done as an additional review, with advice coming back to ministers as
soon as possible this year.
Noting that such a review should be at the top of the government's
priorities, the AAA has described this review as 'an urgent task'.
The committee notes with concern that no additional funding was
allocated in the 2017–18 Budget for the review of the strategy. Instead,
funding for the review will be drawn from 'within existing departmental
Road safety trauma funding
In its interim report, the committee reported that the number of road
deaths per 100 000 Australians had risen during 2015 to 5.1.
The number of deaths on our roads rose by 6.4 per cent in 2016 to 5.4 per 100
The committee notes with some relief that as of September 2017, the rate
of annual deaths per 100 000 Australians has declined slightly, to 5.0.
However, this number remains worryingly high, and far short of the goals established
by the Australian Government under the National Road Safety Strategy. The
committee will continue to monitor this data closely and encourages all
jurisdictions to do the same.
The committee heard evidence during this inquiry about the considerable
costs of road trauma. In terms of financial cost, road trauma costs the
Australian taxpayer around $27 billion or 1.8 per cent of gross domestic
product per year.
This amount is separate to the incalculable human, social and psychological costs
of grief and loss that flow from road death and serious injury. There are also substantial
health and community care costs. Support services, particularly in rural and
regional areas are disparate and often inadequate, leaving affected families
with the options of going without, or travelling often long distances to
receive appropriate specialised care.
To increase national understanding of the scale of road trauma, the
committee recommended in its interim report that the Commonwealth Government
commit $150 000 for three years from 2016–17 to fund the continued
operation of the Australian Trauma Registry. The registry provides nationally
consistent data on road trauma, serious injuries and related outcomes which is
gathered from Australia's major hospitals.
The committee notes that this recommendation received the public support of the
Royal Australian College of Surgeons
and the AAA.
The AAA Chief Executive, Mr Michael Bradley, described the recommended funding as
a 'very small investment' in a national measure of the severity of road crashes.
He recognised the committee's recommendation as an important first step,
arguing that 'we cannot fix a problem that cannot
The provision of nationally consistent road
trauma data would enable respective governments to target the areas of greatest
need, and thereby maximize investment in road safety. However, the committee
also acknowledges that greater awareness of road safety investment initiatives
would assist all states and territories to make the best use of their road
In terms of state-based road trauma funding,
Western Australian third party insurer RAC called for a much greater investment
in the state's Budget. It emphasised the point that road trauma funding was
particularly important in regional areas where '61 per cent of WA road deaths
occurred' in 2016, despite regional areas housing only 21 per cent of the
Similarly, in NSW, insurer NRMA suggested
that an extra $1.5 billion needed to be spent on road trauma in regional and
rural NSW alone. Its Funding Local Roads: Recommendations to clear the
infrastructure backlog report found that around 75 per cent of
the road trauma in NSW occurred on those roads. NRMA Regional Director, Ms Fiona
Simson, called for state and federal governments to fast-track such funding.
Road trauma investment by the NSW and WA Governments contrasts markedly
with the $1 billion dollar package of road improvements, driver training
programs and research announced by the Victorian Government in May 2016. The
funding in Victoria is directed at cutting the number of road deaths to below
200 by the year 2020.
The committee considers the matter of road trauma funding to be far too
significant to be defined by regional difference.
During the course of this inquiry, it has become clear to the committee
that all jurisdictions would benefit from discussions regarding road trauma
funding initiatives, with a view to identifying best practice and maximising
effectiveness. This is particularly critical in rural and regional areas of the
country, where investment in road infrastructure will have the greatest impact
on reducing road trauma. To this end, the committee recognises that the COAG
TIC would be the most appropriate forum for discussion on road trauma funding
The committee recommends that the Minister for Infrastructure and
Transport initiate discussion on road trauma funding at the Council of
Australian Governments Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) with a view
to encouraging effective investment in road trauma funding across the nation.
Vehicle safety standards
The committee's interim report articulated the tangible connection
between vehicle safety standards and road trauma.
With reference to the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) ratings,
the committee heard that people 'are twice as likely to be killed or seriously
injured in a one-star car versus a five star car'.
The committee was informed that ANCAP ratings would have a greater
impact if displayed on vehicles at the point of sale, as consumers would have
immediate access to vital safety information at the time of purchase.
The committee supported such an initiative, and recommended that the Australian
Government work with state and territory governments to ensure that the display
of ANCAP safety ratings is mandatory at the point of sale.
It was also made clear to the committee that financial support for ANCAP
was not guaranteed. For this reason, the committee recommended increased
financial support to ANCAP.
It also recommended continued funding of the Used Car Safety Ratings program
maintained by the Monash University Accident Research Centre.
The committee endorses these recommendations.
On 10 February 2016, the government announced reform of the Motor
Vehicle Standards Act 1989, with legislation to be introduced 'as soon as
Since then, DIRD reported that 'the Australian Government has conducted a
number consultation sessions with key stakeholders'. In May and June 2017, for
example, it held consultation sessions on an online Register of Approved
Vehicles and new certification arrangements for light trailers.
The Minister for Urban Infrastructure, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, announced
on 16 August 2017, that the Government would introduce legislation 'this year'
to implement the reforms by 2019.
The Minister also announced that the legislation would be introduced without
the proposal 'to allow individuals to personally import new vehicles from
countries with comparable vehicle standards to Australia'.
The committee welcomes this exclusion. In its interim report, the committee had
raised concerns about the personal importation proposal, noting that 'the risks
appear considerable and the benefits unclear'.
The committee notes with interest that the proposed reform to the Motor
Vehicle Standards Act 1989 are likely to:
mirror safety recall provisions in Australian Consumer Law and
apply them to road vehicles;
require secure vehicle identification marking on new vehicles as
a deterrent to motor vehicle theft for re-birthing; and
improve pathways for importing specialist and enthusiast
Noting the attention given by Minister Fletcher to consumer protection
and choice, the committee urges a renewed focus on driver safety and the
prevention of harm. While the committee acknowledges the importance of
streamlining processes for consumers, it also considers that improving vehicle
standards can have a positive impact on reducing the road toll. This view
reflects the strong concerns expressed by submitters and witnesses to this
The committee awaits the detail of the legislative proposals to reform
the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989. Without this detail, the committee
has not been able to consider the merits of final policy proposals in either
its interim or final report.
Nevertheless, the committee emphasises the importance of achieving
national agreement on a sufficiently high level of vehicle safety standards. To
this end, the committee urges the Australian Government to comprehensively
deliver on this long awaited reform. The committee recognises that the
Australian Government is in a position to provide a nationally consistent
minimum safety standard for all vehicles. It must now take this opportunity to
ensure that vehicles on our roads are safer for all Australians.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government commit to a robust
set of national minimum safety standards for all vehicles, including second
hand vehicles and the government fleet, as part of its proposed reform of the Motor
Vehicle Standards Act 1989.
Importing safety technology –
Australian Design Rules
The committee's attention was drawn to evidence that the United Kingdom,
the United States and Europe mandate or maintain high levels of technology in
imported cars, but that such technology does not feature in the cars imported
to Australia. In fact, many imported vehicles sold in Australia are not
equipped with the new technology which would be a standard feature of these vehicles
if sold elsewhere (including Europe or the United States).
Mr Mark Jackman, Regional President, Chassis Systems Control, Robert
Bosch Australia informed the committee that:
There are models being sold in Australia whose equivalent models
in other parts of the world have a feature that is not even available here.
Manufacturers will tell you that it is about supply and demand: if we have the
demand, we would then be able to increase the value of the car or show that it
is worth while adding that in. I think we as a consumer group in Australia do
not understand the technologies. And when we do not understand them we are very
reliant on the contacts that we have with the sales people, with the internet
reports and hopefully with the road safety agencies. They are the ones from
whom we get this educational information. With that demand comes the car
manufacturers' requirement, from a marketing point of view, to include those
The committee accepts the overwhelming evidence which indicates that
incorporating new technology into our vehicles would contribute to road safety.
While some witnesses suggested that competition was the most appropriate means
to increase access to new safety technology, a considerable amount of evidence upheld
the view that the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) were the most efficient
mechanism to achieve this. The ADRs include requirements for 'vehicle safety,
environmental performance and anti-theft protection'.
A number of submitters highlighted the value of ADRs to road safety.
However, concerns were raised that ADRs do not cover all classes of vehicles,
which can lead to time lag across classes, as features are progressively
adopted. Evidence to the committee focused on this time lag between the
development of new technology and updates to the ADRs.
For this reason, many witnesses and submitters to the inquiry pointed to the
need to address the slow legislative progress with regard to ADRs. Many called for
an exploration of methods to introduce ADRs in a timely manner to encourage the
take up of new safety technology and to ensure that Australia keeps pace with
The committee recognises the importance of safety technology on our
roads. Technological advancements such as lane departure warning systems and
fatigue monitoring have been proven to assist drivers in remaining more alert –
thereby protecting Australian road users.
The committee endorses the recommendation it made in its interim report
with regard to immediate amendment of the ADR, which would require all new
light vehicles sold in Australia to be fitted with automatic emergency braking
Furthermore, the committee encourages the Australian Government to
explore methods to introduce ADRs in a timely manner, to ensure that all
Australians can benefit from new vehicle safety technology, and remain safe on
The committee recommends that the Australian Government explore methods
to introduce Australian Design Rules (ADRs) in a timely manner to ensure that
Australia benefits from, and keeps pace with, international developments in vehicle
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