Category Archives: Roading

Drivers of heavy vehicles un-supported by Safe Journeys

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For truck drivers, an 80 km/h speed limit has the potential to save at least 20 to 32 lives per year

Improving the safety of heavy vehicles – What is the problem?

Safer Journey Strategy page 28

  • In 2008, crashes involving heavy vehicles (HVs) accounted for 18% of road deaths and 9% of total injuries. This equates to 65 deaths, 258 serious injuries and 1,144 minor injuries.
  • About 80% of people killed in heavy vehicle-related crashes are other road users.

Table data from Quarterly road toll report Jan 2017 to Mar 2017

What has Safe Journeys improved for drivers of Heavy Vehicles (HVs) in New Zealand?

In 2010 HVs were involved in 71 of 379 deaths (18.7%)

In 2017 HVs have been involved in 91 deaths (rolling 12 month) of 332 annual road fatalities: 27% of road deaths.

Benchmark this against the 2016 German crash facts.

German drivers of HVs suffered 137 deaths out of 3,155 persons killed on German traffic: 4.3% of road deaths.

There are a lot of trucks on German Autobahns, but there also helpful safety rules.

The Autobahn has an advisory speed limit of 130 km/h. While going faster is not illegal, in the case of an accident, the driver is deemed at least partially responsible due to “increased operating danger”.

Vehicles with a top speed of less than 60 km/h are not allowed to use the autobahn.

For HVs (Goods Vehicles) over 3.5 t the maximum speed is 80 km/h. In New Zealand it is 90 km/h. Wiki Speed limits in Germany

Countries where the maximum  speed is 80 km/h for ‘Single carriageway’: China, Demark, Finland (winter), France (rain), India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan.

Countries where the maximum speed for trucks is 80km/h or less: Argentina, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey.

Wiki Speed limits by country

“ If open road mean speeds dropped by 5 km/h, 60 lives per year would be saved” (Page 22, safe systems) Safer Journey Strategy

To repeat: for truck drivers, an 80 km/h speed limit has the potential to save at least 20 to 32 lives per year.

Post card from Axenstrasse

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The Axenstrasse is one of the most beautiful main roads in Central Switzerland. It is about 11km long. “On peak days there are up to 14 000 vehicles” (p1 Ref. 1). It is a two-way road with no structural separation of oncoming traffic. On the days I drove this road, the traffic volumes seemed not too different from the 18km-long SH2 drive between Paeroa and Waihi through the Karangahake Gorge, which has a daily traffic volume (DTV) of 8,374, of which 10% is heavy traffic.

This is a great drive for the passenger. Being the driver, my job was to watch my speed and position in the lane. In Switzerland, as in most places in the world, high traffic volumes are needed to justify the building of expensive, high-speed roads. Page 5 of Ref. 1 below explains why this Swiss road allows oncoming traffic that is not physically separated from the other lane as follows: “a DTV 20,000, a Truck percentage of more than 15 % requires two-tube systems”.

Ref. 1 –

Axenstrasse also has a history of many crashes. “Accident Statistics 1990-2015: 547 traffic accidents (5 deaths, 59 serious injuries, 203 slight injuries, property damage amounting to approximately 5 million Swiss francs)” (p15) .

To benchmark this to New Zealand’s SH2 Karangahake Gorge, this report from  Does anyone have up to date crash numbers?

Here is the postcard, Tellskapelle. Magnificent views of beautiful mountains, lake, and Swiss brown cows with bells.

Switzerland TellskapelleAnd below is another post card, of Morschach. We can see pedestrian crossings on this road; something we don’t see anywhere along SH2 in Karangahake Gorge, even when there are recognized access points and places with high volumes of pedestrians such as the Karangahake rest area and Waikino Tavern.

The first question New Zealanders should be asking our highway engineers is: If the Karangahake Gorge was in Switzerland, would Swiss transport engineers allow pedestrian crossings? – More ped crossing Morschach rest area

Switzerland Morschach

A more serious question is what speed limits would Swiss transport engineers use on a road like SH2 through Karangahake Gorge. NZ highway engineers have set the speed limits at 80kph with advisory speeds of 45 – 55 – 65 kph.

Driving the 11 km between Fluelen and Brunnen the speed limit does not go above 80km/h, and there are no advisory speeds. Where the road is not suitable for 80 kph, the legal speed limit is lowered to 60 km/h for reasonably long distances, making it a less hurried drive. There are also reductions to 50 km/h down to 30 km/h in urban areas, encouraging people to stop and spend locally.

Question: Is the Swiss approach safer? Do New Zealanders believe there is a safety benefit to using advisory speeds as opposed to having lower legal speeds? Does the NZTA Speed management guide allow 60kph speed limits on road like SH2 K Gorge? (p12)

Reference notes

A. Here is a You-Tube drive through CH / Axenstrasse

B. Axenstrasse project web site –

“with up to 14,000 vehicles/day”(p30)

“Two tubes? No, because: – Only from DTV 20,000 required” (p41)

C. Locations of speed signs.

South Bound

80km/h sign motorway Brunnen Nov 2013

Starts – 60/80km/h sign Brunnen Nov 2014

50 km/h sign entering Sisikon Nov 2014

50 km/h sign in Sisiken Nov 2014

60 km/h limit ends sign for south bound traffic Nov 2014

80 km/h signs with 60 km/h signs in tunnel before entering Fluelen – see youtube

60 km/h sign at roundabout Fluelen

80 km/h sign on motor way Fluelen

100 km/h sign on to motorway away from Fluelen

North bound

60 km/h sign on motorway entering Fluelen

60 km/h sign entering Fluelen

80/60 km/h sign entering tunnel leaving Fluelen

60 km/h limit ends sign for north bound traffic north of Fluelen

50 km/h sign Tunnel before entering Sisiken Nov 2014

50 km/h limit ends sign for north bound traffic north of Sisiken

60/80 km/h sign tunnel before Brunnen Nov 2014

Old 80 km/h (& 40 km/h) sign tunnel before Brunnen Oct 2013

100 km/h sign motorway Brunnen Nov 2014