Queensland’s peak farm lobby group AgForce wants mandatory rollover devices on quad bikes dumped in favour of a compulsory national learner training and licence scheme for all riders.
Agforce is a member of the National Farmers Federation which has been one of the most vocal supporters for rollover devices on quad bikes.
However, AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said his organisation had never supported the compulsory fitting of operator protection devices (OPDs).
He said AgForce wasn’t opposed to the fitting of rollover devices but believed making them mandatory placed too much emphasis on one piece of safety equipment to reduce accidents and fatalities.
Rollover devices wouldn’t prevent people getting hurt on quad bikes if they didn’t how to ride them properly.
AgForce instead wanted mandatory training and licensing of all quad bike riders including farmers, graziers and weekend warriors to ensure they knew the dangers and how to correctly use the machines.
Mr Guerin said he didn’t know how a training scheme could be implemented at a state or national level because that wasn’t his organisation’s expertise.
Meanwhile, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this week doubled down on its support for new safety regulations on quad bikes with the first set of rules due in around three weeks.
From October 11 all new and directly imported second-hand quad bikes must be tested for lateral static stability and have the angle at which they tip onto two wheels on a hang tag at the point of sale.
As well, a durable and visible label must be affixed to the quad bike to alert the operator to the risk of rollover.
On October 11 next year rollover devices will become mandatory on all new and directly imported second hand general-use model quad bikes. There will also be a compulsory standard for the stability of bikes.
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said in the first six months of this year 14 people, including three children, had died in quad bike-related accidents compared with eight in the whole of last year.
Seven of this year’s fatalities have been in Queensland. Since 2011, 150 people have died from quad bike related accidents, 23 of whom have been children.
Mr Keogh was heavily involved in an ACCC probe into quad bike fatalities which had looked at the merits of a national training and licensing scheme but eventually rejected the idea.
“The difficulty is that the use of quad bikes is almost entirely in off-road, private-property locations so there is no enforcement capacity in relation to any licensing requirement,” he said.
“Licensing requirements would be very much at state government level. The potential powers they could use are the workplace health and safety powers but that is quite problematic from our perspective
“Quad bikes are an important part of rural life but the ongoing fatalities and serious injuries are incredibly concerning. They highlight the importance of this new safety standard,” Mr Keogh said.
“For many years, manufacturers have been claiming rider behaviour is the major reason for the number of deaths and injuries. Their aim has been to shift the focus away from the unsafe design of quad bikes.
“The truth of the matter is, the inherent instability of quad bikes causes them to frequently roll over. It has been reported that at least eight of the fatalities so far this year involved rollovers, with four of them resulting in crush injuries.”
The design limitations of quad bikes meant many people – including experienced, mature operators – were getting seriously injured or killed despite operating them in line with the vehicles’ marketed uses.
“As October 11 draws closer, misinformation and scare campaigns from groups opposed to the new safety standard have ramped up and that’s been very disappointing to see,” Mr Keogh said.
“We’ve also heard nonsense claims that improved quad bike stability and rollover protection devices, as required under the safety standard, will increase fatalities as riders will have a false sense of security.”
“If this argument was applied to the design of cars, none of the modern safety features would be available, and the nearly 70 per cent decline in road fatalities since the mid-1970s would not have occurred.”
Meanwhile the NSW Government this week launched a campaign urging farmers using side-by-side vehicles to wear seat belts following a spate of deaths across the state.
Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson said the campaign is focused on lifting on-farm safety following a rise in preventable deaths in side-by-side vehicles.
“These tragic accidents shouldn’t happen and we’re reminding farmers that despite being the safer option, side-by-side vehicles can still be deadly if not used safely.”
The NSW Government offers safety rebates to help farmers improve farmer safety, including $2000 for the purchase of a side-by-side vehicle, $600 for an operator protective (rollover) device, $90 for a compliant helmet and $500 for a drone.