The NRMA says crash avoidance technologies could help reduce at least one-quarter of fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles.
Also, backing this initiative is the Centre for Road Safety which recently released a statement encouraging commercial truck operators to install automated safety mechanisms in their vehicles.
These developments have come about as a result of latest research conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Centre, on behalf of the Vehicle Safety Research Group. The study looked at how technologies could be used to make heavy vehicles safer for drivers as well as other road users.
A first in heavy vehicle research
According to Centre for Road Safety General Manager Marg Prendergast, this is the first time solid information has become available revealing the benefits that could be derived from heavy vehicles using automated safety technologies.
"While a lot of research has investigated the benefits of fitting these kinds of technologies to light vehicles, this is really the first time we've had some insight into the real world benefits that could be delivered if they were fitted to all heavy vehicles," she said.
Heavy vehicles are over-represented in serious road accidents in NSW according to the Centre for Road Safety. They account for two in 10 fatal road crashes.
"With an increase in heavy vehicle registrations across Australia, we will potentially see more heavy vehicle crashes in the future, which is concerning as these crashes are more likely to result in a fatality or serious injury," said Ms Prendergast.
Monash University Accident Research Centre released compelling research reviewing four crash avoidance technologies - Electronic Stability Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS), Fatigue Warning Systems, and Lane Departure Warning Systems.
The results revealed that if AEBS were fitted to all heavy vehicles it could reduce fatal crashes by around 25 per cent.
According to the research the other technologies would also prove useful, with each estimated to help avoid approximately four to six percent of fatal heavy vehicle crashes, provided all trucks are fitted with them.
The AEBS uses sensors to judge how close the vehicle in front is. It is capable of assessing situations where the relative speed and distance between the two vehicles suggest that a crash is possible. If this happens emergency braking is automatically applied to avoid the collision or at least to weaken the impact.
The Vehicle Safety Research Group plans to continue to further investigate the merits of this technology, and encourage its use in heavy vehicles, especially as it becomes less expensive.
Heavy vehicle safety overseas
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has announced that it will be mandatory for all new heavy vehicles to be fitted with Autonomous Emergency Braking Systems from 2015.
A statement released by the body says that this measure could save up to 1,000 lives per year and 4,000 serious injuries in the European Union alone.
The situation in Australia?
In 2013 there were 189 deaths in Australia from accidents involving articulated and heavy rigid trucks, and buses. Queensland and NSW had have the worst fatality record, with 35 and 32 deaths respectively.
Drivers and passengers are the most likely casualties with statistics indicating that they account for 74.5 per cent of the deaths. Pedestrians account for 14 per cent, motorcyclists for 8.2 per cent and pedal cyclists for 2.7 per cent of the total number of casualties.
In addition to saving lives, a reduction in the number of claims resulting from accidents involving heavy vehicles will also result in lower comprehensive and CTP green slip insurance premiums.