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Seasonal change brings higher risk of truck crashes

29 August 2014 | NZ Transport Agency - Southern Region

Seasonal change brings higher risk of truck crashes

Warmer weather and the start of Daylight Saving have been identified as at risk times for truck crashes and rollovers on the Kaikoura Coast.

During the last five years, the months before and after the start and end of Daylight Saving have seen the highest number of truck crashes on State Highway 1, south of Kaikoura.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Transport Officers Manager Tony McNeill says not only does the start of spring bring longer, warmer days but also a seasonal increase in the number of trucks on the highway.

“We are finding that up to 60 per cent of the crashes are happening in September/October and March/April. This is when we get the seasonal shift in freight coinciding with Daylight Saving.”

He says moving into warmer weather we know people begin to enjoy more time outside with barbecues, family and friends. There is also more outdoor activity in neighbourhoods, such as mowing lawns, which can have an impact on shift workers sleep patterns.

“Broken sleep can result in fatigue and inattention, which along with speed remain the three primary causes for crashes on the Kaikoura Coast.”

The Transport Agency has worked closely with freight companies on reducing the number of rollovers and truck crashes along the Kaikoura Coast since 2008 when truck rollovers peaked at 11. This work has focussed on getting drivers to slow down and pull over when tired. The Keep it 10 Below messaging was, and still is, about reducing speed specifically at advisory corners.

Mr McNeill says many firms have responded to the risks along this section of the highway by instigating several mechanisms to enhance driver support. One example has been putting in place speed alerts if trucks are driving too quickly through GPS ring-fenced portions of the trip.

“With the trip between Christchurch and Picton predominately being trailer swaps, the biggest risk is familiarity, resulting in over confidence and perhaps a lack of attention to detail.

“While there are always inherent risks with being on the road, the biggest risk for drivers on the Kaikoura coastal route is between 3am and 6am heading south of Kaikoura. The challenge is how to keep drivers safe on this return leg from Picton when fatigue is starting to set in and they are looking forward to the end of their shift.”

There were eight truck rollover crashes along this section of highway in 2013, compared with five in 2012 and only four in 2011. There have been two rollovers to date this year.

Since 2003, there have been more than 80 truck rollovers along the coast.

He says many experienced drivers have been in a rollover. “The statistics show that 78 per cent of rollovers happen at advisory corners and 80 per cent of the time the road is dry. An appreciation of these statistics, as part of our education programme and conversations with drivers, is essential.”

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