The trial of a 90km/h speed limit for trucks on a section of the Melbourne Monash Freeway starting today (August 25, 2016) could be doomed to failure.
The above official animation video shows no benefit in traffic flow and even shows cars and motorcycles undertaking and making dangerous manoeuvres around trucks spread across the four-lane freeway.
A speed restriction without lane restriction is useless.
However, Minister for Roads and Road Safety Luke Donnellan says that won’t happen until a second trial phase which only involves banning trucks from the right hand lane. Trucks will still be spread dangerously across three lanes!
Consequently, the 18-month trial between Huntingdale and Jacksons roads simply won’t work.
While truck drivers and motorcycle riders share a kinship of the open road, there is also a great divide between the two, not just in size, but in transport and road safety issues.
While motorcycles can be the solution to many traffic problems, trucks can often be the cause, and in road safety issues, trucks usually kill other roads users while bikers usually only wipe out themselves.
Trucks are responsible for the deaths of more than 300 people a year in Australia and 4500 a year in the US.
Research in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion shows trucks account for 8% of US highway traffic, yet are involved in 11% of fatal road crashes.
Professor Bill Russell, deputy director of Melbourne University’s Australasian Centre for the Governance and Management of Urban Transport, has said Australians would be safer if more freight was moved by rail.
His research showed that moving 10% more freight by rail would save 25 lives in Australia every year, and 100 serious injuries such as quadriplegia or brain damage. Yet, road freight is increasing while rail is decreasing.
However, road safety could be improved and highway traffic snarls decreased if trucks were speed limited and restricted to the left lane (right or slow lane in countries where they drive on the right side of the road).
Trucks, caravans, buses and towed vehicles are restricted to the “slow” lane in European autobahns and only allowed to pass in designated areas which are flat.
These passing areas are never on hills as it takes trucks a dangerously long time to pass each other going up or down a hill.
How many times have you been stuck behind two trucks blocking both lanes?
This simple system of lane restriction would separate trucks from smaller traffic, particularly vulnerable motorcycles and would allow the rest of the traffic to move more smoothly without being hindered by trucks.
It’s not the only solution to the problem with trucks on our roads, but it’s a start.
Unfortunately, the Monash Freeway trial is doomed to fail unless they also restrict trucks to the left lane and the second left lane only for passing.