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Road Safety

OUTPUTS
OVERVIEW
PERFORMANCE RESULTS
OUTPUT 6.1 POLICY ADVICE, ROAD SAFETY
OUTPUT 6.2 REGULATION, ROAD SAFETY
OUTPUT 6.3 RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, VEHICLE STANDARDS
OUTPUT 6.4 RESEARCH AND PUBLIC EDUCATION, ROAD SAFETY
OUTPUT 6.5 PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION, FEDERAL ROAD SAFETY BLACK SPOT PROGRAM
OUTPUT 6.6 POLICY ADVICE AND RESEARCH, VEHICLE EMISSIONS 

Contact: Bill Ellis (02) 6274 7651, Email: Bill.Ellis@dotars.gov.au

OUTPUTS

  1. Policy advice, road safety
  2. Regulation, road safety
  3. Research and development, vehicle standards
  4. Research and public education, road safety
  5. Program Administration, Federal Road Safety Black Spot Program
  6. Policy advice and research, vehicle emissions.

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OVERVIEW

A safer road environment represents a major Commonwealth Government commitment and a key social and economic issue. The Department, through the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) (formerly Federal Office of Road Safety), provides leadership and coordination to promote road safety and reduce the incidence and severity of road crashes. It works with government, industry and community bodies. FORS also coordinates the Commonwealth Government's role in national road transport reform.

The Bureau of Transport Economics estimates that road trauma costs the Australian community about $6 billion annually. From 1992 until 1996, the national road toll remained around 2000 deaths per year. In 1997 it dropped to 1767, and in 1998 fell again to 1763. This is a record low since 1950.

During the year FORS commissioned research into road-user issues focusing on drink-driving, speed management, and heavy-vehicle driver fatigue. Road-user research formed the basis for input to several State Parliamentary Inquiries, and formulating the draft Road Safety Strategy for Beyond 2000.

The Federal Road Safety Black Spot Program continued to enhance community road safety. In 1998-99, 324 federally funded Black Spot projects were approved, at an estimated total cost of more than $36 million.

During the year, the Commonwealth Government took a lead in encouraging national implementation of higher mass limits for heavy vehicles with road friendly suspensions. This reform will ultimately deliver an estimated annual benefit to gross domestic product of $840 million and fewer heavy vehicles on the road for the same amount of freight. The higher mass limits were introduced for eligible Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) vehicles in July 1999.

The Department chaired a working group that developed an assessment framework for road transport reform under the National Competition Policy Agreement between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments. The framework was endorsed by Commonwealth, State and Territory transport ministers in late 1998 and by Heads of Government in early 1999.

The first stage of a review of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 was completed in May 1999. The draft report was released for public comment, and the final report expected to be provided to the Government by the end of 1999.

A series of emission control measures has been developed for stringent requirements equal to those operating in Europe for both petrol and diesel engines.

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PERFORMANCE RESULTS

OUTPUT CLASS 6 ROAD SAFETY

Ministerials, Questions on Notice, Briefings and Speeches

During 1998-99 FORS actioned 686 items of Ministerial correspondence and 58 Questions on Notice, and prepared 47 briefings and 12 speeches.

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OUTPUT 6.1 POLICY ADVICE, ROAD SAFETY

Development and implementation of policies, strategies, legislation and regulations, rules, standards, codes

During the year the National Road Safety Strategy Panel, chaired by FORS, continued to monitor the implementation of the 1992 National Road Safety Strategy, which provides a national road safety focus through to the year 2000. The strategy seeks to coordinate and focus current national road safety efforts.

The National Road Safety Summit in Canberra in September 1998 provided an opportunity for stakeholders in road safety to review the performance of the existing national strategy, and to make recommendations for the revised strategy to apply beyond the year 2000. A draft revised strategy for comment was circulated to the Panel in mid-June.

During 1998-99 FORS contributed to other safety forums including:

  • submissions to the Queensland Parliamentary Travelsafe Committee Inquiry into Drug Driving in Queensland;
  • the Austroads Review of Drugs and Driving; and
  • the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts Inquiry into Managing Fatigue in Transport.

Uniform Australian road rules were finalised by the National Road Transport Commission (NRTC) during the year and are being implemented by all States and Territories. The new road rules provide motorists with a high level of regulatory consistency in driving from one State to another; this has significant safety benefits, and will enhance the efficient movement of freight as well as passengers.

Significant progress was made in relation to the Commonwealth Government's road transport reform agenda:

  • the Commonwealth Government, with most State and Territory Governments, implemented in July 1999 higher mass limits (higher loading levels) for heavy vehicles with road-friendly suspension - this is a major economic reform with savings to consumers. The present road freight task can be performed with fewer trucks and the change encourages movement toward the latest technology and safer vehicles that have better handling and cleaner emissions;
  • the Department chaired a working group that developed an assessment framework for road transport for Stage 2 of the National Competition Policy Agreement payments. The framework was endorsed by Transport Ministers and Heads of Government and was used by the National Competition Council in its assessment process. It represented a significant step forward in defining the content and objectives of the national road transport reform process;
  • national policies on speeding heavy vehicles and registration inspections were implemented in February 1999 for vehicles registered under FIRS;
  • the Prime Minister, Premiers and the Northern Territory Chief Minister signed the Heavy and Light Vehicles Agreements in late 1998. The Australian Capital Territory Government has yet to sign, but the likely signing date is late August 1999;
  • work commenced on a review of FIRS;
  • work commenced on drafting the seventh edition of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code for publication in 2002 and the second edition of the Australian Explosives Code drafted and updated to align with it, the update to be published in late 1999;
  • participation in the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods continued in order to align Australia's transport requirements with the rest of the world;
  • FORS led a project for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Intelligent Transport Systems Working Group for most of the year, and participated in a meeting of the group in Seoul in October 1998. The USA took over the project leadership from FORS in April 1999;
  • FORS chaired the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Special Interest Group in developing a strategy for cooperation on ITS implementation and standards development in the region. The Minister forwarded the strategy to APEC Transportation Ministers in December 1998. FORS ended its term as Chair of the group in April 1999, but continues to participate.

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Review of Australian Design Rules

A comprehensive review of Australian Design Rules (ADRs) for motor vehicles and trailers is continuing, the first 19 rules completing the assessment process. The review is seeking to align the ADRs, where possible, with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulations. Completion is scheduled for 2000.

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Review of Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989

The review of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 continued through the year, a draft report released in May 1999 for public comment and the final report expected by the end of 1999. The review was undertaken by a taskforce comprising FORS, the Australian Customs Service, Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Environment Australia and the NRTC.

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OUTPUT 6.2 REGULATION, ROAD SAFETY

Issuing compliance plates

In 1998-99 there were 1501 new applications for vehicle compliance approval,

30 249 submissions of technical evidence demonstrating compliance of vehicles with the ADRs, and 2220 approvals granted (including amending approvals).

The low-volume approval scheme allows limited-edition vehicles to be supplied in small numbers by alternative methods of ADRs compliance rather than full destructive testing. There were 912 low-volume applications and 648 approvals granted. New business processes and additional resources during the year reduced the backlog involved in processing low-volume applications by approximately 24 weeks.

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Vehicle import applications

Import approvals were issued to individuals or organisations for 23 087 vehicles as personal imports, vehicles to be dismantled, older vehicles, or under the Low Volume Scheme. The number of import approvals increased by approximately 20 per cent over the previous year. A target turnaround time of 17 days was established for 1998-99; 97 per cent of approvals were issued within this time.

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Table 1: Vehicle import approvals

Import category Number of vehicles
1996-97 1997-98 1998-99
Personal imports 1 596 1 854 2 069
Dismantling 2 354 3 228 2 913
Low volume 5 332 6 700 10 538
Older than 15 years 4 140 3 884 3 599
Special-purpose vehicles 3 790 4 942 5 220
Total 17 212 20 608 24 339

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National standard compliance audits of testing and production facilities

During 1998-99 FORS conducted 23 audits of vehicle and component production facilities and three audits of testing facilities in Australia, as well as 15 test facilities and 25 production facilities audits overseas. Those overseas were conducted through contracts with equivalent agencies in Europe, the United Kingdom and Japan, and by FORS staff in Korea, Malaysia and Thailand.

The audit findings afford the Administrator of Vehicle Standards (under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989) a high level of confidence that all vehicles being supplied to the market in Australia comply with ADRs.

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Safety investigations

During 1998-99 FORS undertook 75 safety investigations, including a significant investigation into possible problems in a vehicle model's front-suspension lower control arms, and another major one into alleged stability and vibration problems in some heavy vehicles. The Office also monitored 154 vehicle recalls.

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OUTPUT 6.3 RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, VEHICLE STANDARDS

New vehicle safety standards

FORS is working toward improved safety of the national fleet through the development of appropriate ADRs based on research. The ADRs are determined as national vehicle safety standards. Research is continuing in order to develop new vehicle standards to improve safety further in offset frontal crash protection, side impact crash protection, vehicle compatibility and pedestrian protection. The recently finalised offset frontal crash protection standard will be introduced from January 2000.

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International vehicle standards harmonisation

FORS is participating in the International Harmonised Research Activities (IHRA) Working Group to coordinate worldwide research in key areas of occupant protection. FORS was chosen to chair the newly formed Side Impact Working Group to develop a globally harmonised side impact test procedure. FORS also represents Australia at the IHRA working groups on Advanced Offset Frontal Protection, Vehicle Compatibility, Pedestrian Safety and Biomechanics Research.

FORS leads the APEC Road Transport Harmonisation Project Group, which is seeking to reduce regulatory impediments to vehicle trade in APEC economies. A harmonised regulatory regime is targeted for completion over the next five years.

Consideration of accession to the United Nations-Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) '1958 Agreement', which provides for the development and mutual recognition of vehicle safety and emissions regulations and for the mutual recognition of approvals under the regulations, is underway. The States and Territories have been consulted in line with current treaty procedures, and there is broad agreement.

Harmonisation of vehicle standards under the provisions of the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement has progressed during the year seeking to achieve alignment with international standards. Nineteen Trans-Tasman Vehicle Standards concerned with vehicle lighting have been completed with alignment with United Nations ECE Regulations. Endorsement by the Australian Transport Council is anticipated in 1999. The process covering the remaining vehicle standards is expected to be completed in 2000.

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Automotive market access

FORS and the Thai Ministry for Industry Industrial Standards Institute completed a mutual recognition arrangement for acceptance of test reports from the exporting country to each other's requirements. This arrangement will facilitate trade in automotive product between the two countries.

A Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment with the European Union which includes the automotive sector will provide improved opportunities for Australian manufacturers seeking markets in Europe.

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OUTPUT 6.4 RESEARCH AND PUBLIC EDUCATION, ROAD SAFETY

Research projects

FORS administered 22 research consultancies of high-risk road-user behaviours and factors, and published two research reports. Thirteen reports of current research projects will be published in 1999-2000. A list of all consultancy reports is available on the Department's website, with summaries of more recent reports.

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Statistical analysis and data collection

During the year, FORS considered trends in road trauma, including the identification of vehicle standard matters and high-risk road-user groups. FORS analysis of the trends was reported in monthly, quarterly and annual statistical reports.

The FORS Monograph Series contains detailed information on a range of road safety topics such as alcohol, unlicensed drivers, and risk of death or serious injury by vehicle type.

Road safety policy is developed by FORS in response to emerging and significant trends. Analysis of these trends is the basis for further research and public education activities.

In 1999, work began on the development of a Heavy Vehicle Crash Database to assist industry and road authorities to improve the road safety performance and efficiency of the road transport industry. It is expected to be operational in the year 2000.

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Education projects, information dissemination and response to public information requests

The FORS statistical collection is an important resource for industry, the media and the general public. In 1998-99, there were more than 1300 enquiries on road safety statistics, with 95 per cent being answered within 24 hours. Internet access to FORS statistics has increased accessibility to this information. Further improvements are planned in the next 12 months.

More than 250 requests were made for road safety research information, 90 per cent of these answered within one working day. FORS also responded to 1580 public requests for road safety information and handled 2600 inquiries and requests via the FORS free call telephone number, 1800 026 349.

During the year FORS undertook a number of public education road safety activities, including:

  • a television and radio advertising campaign that targeted an anti-speed message to young male drivers aged 17-25, March-May 1999;
  • a motorcycle safety videotape, Ride On, and supporting literature developed for novice motorcyclists;
  • a print-based campaign, Making Motorcycling Safer, providing safety tips to both riders and drivers on strategies to improve motorcyclist safety; and
  • a range of print materials available to the general community providing advice on drink-driving, speed, child restraints, fatigue and the road safety of children.

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OUTPUT 6.5 PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION, FEDERAL ROAD SAFETY BLACK SPOT PROGRAM

Projects funded

The Federal Road Safety Black Spot Program continues to contribute to reducing the level of road trauma in Australia with approval in the 1998-99 program year of a further 324 projects valued at $36 382 861.

Prior evaluation shows that Black Spot fixes will save the community on average $4 in crash savings for every $1 spent. A comprehensive evaluation of the current program is proposed to commence in 1999-2000.

In April 1998 FORS engaged an independent consultant to conduct an integrity check of the Road Safety Black Spot Program, the check primarily concerned with the accountability of project submissions rather than an evaluation of safety outcomes. The report was released in November 1998, and highlighted some issues of technical detail where greater consistency could be achieved. The report also confirmed that the program is successful in directing funds to priority crash locations, and is likely to contribute significantly to reducing casualty crashes at treated locations.

To address issues arising from the report and ensure the program remains relevant and tightly focused beyond 2000, an Administrative Arrangements Workshop was conducted 10-11 March 1999 in Canberra, involving representation from all jurisdictions. FORS plans to reissue the program's Notes on Administration, with minor refinements, prior to the year 2000.

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OUTPUT 6.6 POLICY ADVICE AND RESEARCH, VEHICLE EMISSIONS

Standards development

A major new package of vehicle emission standards was developed in June 1999, to introduce progressively tighter limits on air pollutants from cars, buses and trucks. The first set of standards starts in 2002 with the introduction of current European standards, and ends with the introduction of world's best-practice standards in 2006. The new standards will lead to significant reductions in key emissions that contribute to photochemical smog and particle pollution in major cities.

FORS also completed, in May 1999, the first stage of its comparative emissions test program on new vehicles. The information from that program has provided important information for the emissions review mentioned above.

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