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New limit will promote road safety


Tuesday September 16 2003

New limit will promote road safety

A uniform 90 kmh open-road speed limit for all heavy vehicles will mean safer roads, Road Transport Forum Chief Executive Officer Tony Friedlander says. “Reducing the speed differential between some trucks and other road users will improve traffic flow and reduce risk taking by impatient drivers. It is a sensible and practical move which will mean fewer tragedies on our roads.”

Mr Friedlander welcomed the Minister of Transport’s announcement of the change at the Road Transport Forum’s annual conference today.

Most heavy vehicles can already travel at 90 kmh. Only truck and trailers which make up around 13% of the heavy vehicle fleet, or just over 10,000 vehicles, are restricted to 80 kmh. “Put in the context of the nearly three million vehicles on New Zealand’s roads this is a tiny number, but even a very small proportion of vehicles travelling significantly slower than most other road users can create hazardous situations.

“We see the change as a positive road safety measure. It takes into account the improved safety and performance requirements the industry adopted for heavy vehicles last year with a new Dimensions and Mass Rule. It also recognises that modern trucks are inherently a lot safer now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Trucks are designed to travel safely at 90 kmkh these days.”

Mr Friedlander says the industry has been consistently improving its safety performance. In June this year, the number of truck-related fatal accidents dropped to its lowest level for over 30 years. “The industry has been strongly promoting road safety. We proposed an Operator Safety Rating System three years ago which would help target poorly performing operators. This would further lift the industry’s safety performance and we would like to see progress on this as the next initiative towards safer roads. In the meantime we congratulate the Minister of Transport, Paul Swain, and the Government for this step.”

90 kmh backgrounder

- Truck and trailer combinations currently have an 80 kmh open road speed limit. They make up about 13% of the 82,000 vehicles weighing 4 tonnes or more. All other vehicles over this weight already have a 90 kmh limit

- The move to a uniform 90 kmh limit comes after extensive consultation by the LTSA

- Modern trucks have significantly better handling, safety and performance capabilities compared to vehicles built 20 or 30 years ago. Research in the United States shows the optimum speed for truck travel is around 55 mph or about 90kmh

- The 2002 Mass and Dimensions Rule put in place an internationally accepted stability requirement as well as other dynamic performance standards. These new standards mean all trucks can be safely driven at 90 kmh on open roads in New Zealand. The LTSA in its appraisal of a move to a uniform 90 kmh said the Rule:
“addresses the dynamic performance of truck-trailers/A-trains improving their stability to corner at the design speed of the road and perform obstacle performance manoeuvres safely at up to 90 kmh.”

- Heavy vehicle road safety is continually improving. In the year to June 2003, the LTSA reported a total of 60 truck-related fatal accidents, the lowest number since 1970.

With the total distance travelled by heavy vehicles increasing by around 4% a year, the number of truck-related annual crashes per 100 million kilometres has halved over the past decade

- The industry through the Forum has strongly promoted initiatives to further improve its safety performance. These include graduated drivers licences which require a driver to demonstrate set levels of knowledge and experience before he or she can drive a heavier or combination (e.g. A train) unit as well as other measures to improve vehicle safety and performance

- As another major contribution to safer roads, the Forum has proposed an Operator Safety Rating System be put in place. This is designed to recognise operators with good safety records and to target those with poor performances. The Forum is pressing the LTSA to have the System in place next year


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