LETTERS: Accidents involving lorry drivers

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was pleased to read your coverage of Mary Williams and the launch of Brake ( 3 February). Her attempts to improve the safety of lorries on our roads deserve widespread report. I would like to highlight two areas that your coverage overlook ed. Thefirst relates to accident statistics and the second to vehicle operators.

The first step in solving the problem of how to reduce truck accidents is to be able to evaluate its causes. Research at the University of Huddersfield into such accidents has identified severe inadequacies in the Department of Transport's accident statistics. In particular, it is impossible to assess the cause of any of the 5,000 or so road deaths in the UK each year. Of the 17 per cent or so of these involving trucks, it is impossible to say in how many either the truck and its driver, or other road users, were to blame.

Our second finding is that vehicle operators who take a systematic approach to reducing their accidents can gain substantial cost saving. Skimping on maintenance and driver training may reduce short-terms costs, but it is likely to increase accidents in the longer term. The costs of even a relatively minor accident can easily outweigh the savings made by not maintaining vehicles properly and not training drivers. This is before any of the social costs, such as death, suffering and cleaning up the mess are taken into account.

We therefore urge the Department of Transport to collect and include causal data in their road accident statistics. We would also urge vehicle operators to look very closely at their long-term costs before deciding to take short cuts on vehicle maintenance or driver training.

Yours sincerely, Will Murray Department of Transport and Logistics University of Huddersfield Huddersfield 3 February