The Federal Government has proposed an amendment to Australian Design Rules which would mandate tougher safety standards for light commercial vehicles (LCVs), bringing them into line with light passenger vehicles.
An amendment would see Electronic Stability Control (ESC) compulsory for new LCVs, and Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) compulsory in light passenger vehicles as well as LCVs.
Federal Road Safety Minister Catherine King said the proposal was aimed at saving lives.
“Mandating vehicle technology that helps drivers to avoid collisions is an effective way to make our roads safer for all users and will further bolster the Government’s efforts under the National Road Safety Strategy, aimed at reducing deaths and injuries on Australia’s roads,” Minister King said.
The proposal has been met with strong approval from car clubs' umbrella body, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA)
"This is lifesaving technology that many ute and van drivers have not been able to access," AAA Executive Director Andrew McKellar said.
"Extending ESC to light commercial vehicles will no doubt save lives on the nation's roads."
A Federal Department of Transport and Infrastructure report proposes an implementation timetable for ESC of 2015 for new models and 2016 for all models.
"This timing is appropriate as ESC technology is well-established and there is an international regulation for ESC that sets out technical specifications, where fitted," the report reads.
“However, industry has noted that, while the technology is well-established, it may need some redesigning to meet the regulation, and there is also a long design cycle for light commercial vehicles.”
Ms King added that the proposed timing is "indicative only", and that more detailed discussion with industry will be needed before changes to the ADR are set.
According to the report, in 2011 LCVs accounted for 20 percent of Australian new vehicle sales in 2011.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), while supporting the proposal, has called for a 12 month extension to the implementation date – from 2015 to 2016.
FCAI’s James Hurnall told TMR that the industry would need at least until the end of 2015 to introduce the changes.
“Let’s be practical about this,” Mr Hurnall said. “While the FCAI believes ESC is an important safety feature, we believe a sufficient time frame is required for the configuration process.”
“The FCAI is currently conducting its own research to find an appropriate time frame to implement this. The industry just asks for practical timing.”
FCAI estimates that around 45 percent of current LCVs are fitted with ESC. It expects this to increase to 90 percent by 2018 and 99 percent by January 2020.
Given the technology gap with some carmakers, and model development cycles, FCAI’s call for an appropriate timeframe to get it right would seem reasonable.
Interestingly, there is no requirement under OHS law in any jurisdiction, other than that work vehicles be maintained in safe operating condition, that ESC be a mandatory feature.