Australia

Quad bike makers quit safety advisory panel

Hopes of reaching a consensus on a new quad bike safety regime have been dashed following the resignation of the manufacturer's representatives from a Federal Government advisory committee.

"The deck was stacked, and not in our favour," said Scott Kebschull, a US vehicle expert nominated by quad bike manufacturers to be on the panel.

The body representing manufacturers, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), and Mr Kebschull were appointed to a technical reference group to advise government on the best way to introduce a quad bike safety rating system.

They have now both resigned in protest after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) proposed major changes to improve quad bike safety, including a star-rating system, crush protection devices and mandatory minimum performance standards.

"The ACCC has reached a conclusion in advance, they've made up their minds and are not open to considering other points of view," Mr Kebschull told 7.30.

The FCAI said the ACCC proposal amounted to "experimenting with the public" and could do more harm than good.

The proposed safety star-rating system for quad bikes was largely based on work done by researchers at the University of New South Wales' Transport And Road Safety Unit (TARS).

But the FCAI argues the research is flawed, and accuses the ACCC of "a biased process" because it funds part of the work.

"It seems to be a conflict of interest for a government agency to fund a third party to perform a task, then be the adjudicator of the quality and suitability of that work," the FCAI said in its response to the ACCC's quad bike safety consultation regulation impact statement.

"The FCAI believes that [Assistant Treasurer] Minister Michael Sukkar, whose responsibility it will be to review the regulation impact statement, may be misled."

Claims 'absolute rubbish'

Quad bike crash-testing carried out by the Transport And Road Safety Unit at the University of New South Wales.

The researcher who headed the TARS team, Professor Raphael Grzebieta, said criticism of the work is "absolute rubbish".

"We have studied coronial data. We've done the survey of 1,500-odd riders out in the real world that have experienced 1,400 crashes," Professor Grzebieta said.

He accused the FCAI of delaying tactics.

"I'm convinced they're merchants of doubt, that's the whole idea," he said.

There have been three coronial inquests into quad bike fatalities since 2015 in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania.

The coroners expressed frustration at the failure of researchers and manufacturers to reach consensus.

"Although industry participation is essential, it needs to accept there are other views and take a more collaborative approach than the combative approach taken in the past," Queensland deputy coroner John Lock said.

The deputy coroner found in 2015 the TARS research was a "good start", but "more work needs to be done" before a rating system could be implemented.

A former chief engineer of the US Consumer Safety Product Commission, Roy Deppa, told the ACCC that the TARS proposed system had some shortcomings.

"I have serious reservations about the proposal for a star-rating system and for setting performance limits," he told 7.30.

'You have to be real about this'

A man sits on a quad bike

More than 15 people are killed in quad bike accidents every year in Australia and hundreds more are injured, mostly on farms.

Western Queensland Grazier and Agforce President Grant Maudsley is keen to push ahead with the ACCC's proposals.

"We need to make some changes, we need to make people well informed about what they're buying," he said.

Grant Maudsley's son was nearly killed in a quad bike accident in 2009, and he's since helped develop the National Farmers' Federation policy.

"It's not until you've been to hell and back that you understand why you have to be real about this," he said.

But the FCAI and recreational users said authorities should focus more on safety culture, such as helmet use, rather than quad bike design.

Original Article

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