Published on March 2, 2017

Road safety more checks on heavy trucks

Interview with Giuseppe Bisogno, Director of the Servizio Polizia Stradale.

What kind of impact does such a high number of heavy trucks have on our roads?

Let’s begin with saying that an increased presence of heavy trucks on our roads does not necessarily mean greater danger and that road transport is economically strategic for the country. That said, it is the very nature of “heavy trucks” that affects the fluidity of traffic and the severity of the consequences for the people involved in case of road accidents. This is without going into the details of the respective responsibilities.

In detail, what are the most significant figures when it comes to road accidents?

According to the data recorded by the Polizia Stradale in 2016 with reference to heavy trucks, there has been a reduction of 1.3% in traffic accidents, of 9.2% in fatal accidents and 9.8% in fatalities, compared to the previous year. With regard to traffic in general, the data show a reduction of 1.8% in traffic accidents, and respectively of 3.1% and 3.3% in fatal accidents and number of fatalities. The main causes of accidents that involve heavy trucks do not differ substantially from those of general accidents: failure to comply with speed limits, speeds not suited to road and traffic conditions; distraction, failure to respect safe distances – especially on the extraurban road network – and rules on priority.

With regard to road transport controls, what can you tell us?

It is known that every year, the Italian Police Forces must ensure a minimum threshold of controls which, in accordance with Legislative Decree N. 144/2008, amounts to 3% of the working days of the drivers of “heavy-duty” vehicles (i. e. falling within the scope of the European legislation on chronotachographs). With regard to this objective, the total number of checks was 4,751,000, 91.8% of which took place at the roadside. This largely positive result was made possible by the intensification of controls on professional road transport and implemented, in particular, by the Polizia Stradale corps, which ensured more than 94% of the total roadside checks. A 1% increase when compared to the previous year.

Which violations do you find to be the most frequent?

Apart from “common” violations, which are not typical of road transport – such as those described by art. 79 C.d.S., with particular reference to tire wear – the high number of violations ascertained by the Polizia Stradale in terms of driving times, breaks and rest periods (about 20,000 in the first 5 months of 2017) justifiably leads us to believe that, despite the attention that companies are paying to the issue of road safety, there is still a lot to do. In this respect, it is absolutely necessary to increase the awareness of those working in the sector, warning them about the absolute danger of failing to comply with the social legislation. And this does not include the negative repercussions that such violations may have from the point of view of a free, healthy competition between companies.

What prevents a more effective use of technological tools by road transport companies, with the aim of facilitating the road controls by the Polizia Stradale, among other things?

The Piattaforma Logistica Nazionale, an ITS created by the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, will soon come into operation. It will network all the logistics nodes in Italy (ports, interports, railway freight centers, private operators) with rail and road transport operators, in order to reduce and make more constant the time needed to pass through the Italian logistics chain. In addition, new, “smart” tachographs will have to be installed on newly registered heavy trucks starting from 2019, in accordance with the European legislation. They will allow remote monitoring of driving and resting activities and of the routes taken by the vehicles, by means of a communication system capable of providing the police in real time with an early diagnosis. The police will then use it to check the weight of the vehicle and any possible abnormal behavior by the driver, such as, for example, failure to insert the tachograph card, power supply interruptions and sensor failures. Of course, the effectiveness of these tools cannot be fully appreciated until their use is made mandatory for all users.

In short, mandatory Black Boxes for everyone?

The legislative decree on competition, among other things, aims to promote sustainable mobility and the development of smart cities through “Black Boxes or other similar electronic devices aimed at creating technological platforms”. The initiative will be very useful if, in addition to providing benefits to its end users, it will represent a valuable support to the activities of the Polizia Stradale, both in terms of combating vehicle theft and detecting accidents, including rescue operations.

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