“Faulty and selective”

Honda and Yamaha to abandon ATV industry if roll bars made compulsory, claiming OPD research is not “evidence based”
The Southern Farmer
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A scene from the past? It could be if the ACCC law is passed.

TWO of Australia’s biggest quad bike manufacturers, Honda and Yamaha, have confirmed they will pull out of the market if the ACCC’s safety recommendations are adopted.

Last month the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its draft standard proposal, which recommended mandatory safety standards for quad bikes include the fitting of Operator Protection Devices (OPDs).

In response, Honda and Yamaha have announced they will pull their quads from Australia, saying OPDs caused as many injuries as they prevented – claiming research into the statistics was flawed.

“The science behind the (ACCC) draft is both faulty and selective; Yamaha Motor Australia has advised the ACCC that behaviour is easily the biggest contributing factor to ATV safety,” Yamaha Motor Australia director, Brad Ryan, said.

“Unfortunately the ACCC Quad Bike Taskforce continues to push for engineering changes and product modifications which look to be political rather than scientific.”

Likewise, Honda has said the safety recommendations were not evidence-based.

“No reputable company can meet the proposal because it lacks engineering and design rigour,” Honda Australia Motorcycle and Power Equipment’s managing director, Robert Toscano, said.

“The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that wearing a helmet and keeping children off adult-sized ATVs will drastically cut injuries and save lives.

“Even if the ACCC succeeds in pushing reputable manufacturers out of Australia, the problem won’t be addressed until wearing helmets is made mandatory.”

Mojo and Polaris have agreed in principle to implement any legislated changes, with CanAm failing to respond to enquiries from the Southern Farmer.

Tractors and quad bike accidents remain the leading causes of injury on Australian farms, with three children killed in quad accidents over the Easter break this year and 10 people killed in quad accidents over 2018.

The National Farmers Federation has called on the incoming Federal Government to take up all of the ACCC’s recommendations, including the proposed Five Star Safety Rating System.

“Since 2011, about 130 people have been killed, and on average six people each day are hospitalised, in quad-bike related incidents,” NFF president, Fiona Simson, said.

“This comes at a cost to the economy of at least $200 million per year, not to mention the pain, suffering and associated expenses inflicted upon those affected, including friends and families of victims.”

The recommendations made by the ACCC also include a standard which mandates key information on quad bike stability and design specifications be made available for would-be purchasers.

“Consumers deserve the right to safety information relevant to the quad bike they intend to purchase to make informed decisions about the safety of themselves, their families and workers,” Ms Simson said.

Mike Wadell runs a beef fattening property near Thorpdale.

In his time on the farm, he has rolled a quad bike twice – and watched his 15 year old son roll one as well.

“I was walking behind the ATV while he was driving very slowly – we were spraying bracken, which was a pretty hard job, and you couldn’t really see the ground, (and) I’ve got no idea what happened but the next thing you know it rolls over him,” Mr Wadell said.

“Now that there is no bracken there, I can’t for the life of me see how – the bike luckily went over him; he survived ok, bit of bruising.”

Estimating the bike was being used on a 25 degree lean, the ATV kept rolling down the hill after the incident.

On two other occasions, Mr Wadell has rolled the bike himself; both times when spraying weeds.

“You’ve got one hand holding the spray gun, looking at what you’re spraying rather than the terrain in front of you and the next thing you know bang, you’ve overbalanced and you’ve gone,” he said.

“Stupidly, we’ve still got the bikie – we still use it.”

Although Mr Wadell has since had an OPD fitted to the bike, he is not 100 per cent sold on the safety protection, saying it only made him feel “slightly” better.

“That doesn’t necessarily stop the whole thing (crushing you) – they are not always an effective design, because you almost need something on the front (of the bike) as well,” he said.

Despite that, and with three accidents now behind him, Mr Wadell believes that all bikes should come standard with an OPD, and that it should be mandated that all old bikes be fitted with protection.

“The stupid thing is you just keep on using them because they are so bloody handy,” he said.

AgriFutures Australia is currently working with AgHealth Australia to track and monitor death and industry statistics in the primary industries – including those involving ATVs.

Managing director, John Harvey, said the number of farming-related deaths remained alarming.

“While some progress has been made in specific areas, the overall numbers are telling us that more still needs to be done,” Mr Harvey said.

The group’s research shows nearly 90 per cent of farm-related accidents since 2001 involved males, with close to 50 per cent of all reported accidents involving men over 50 years.

Tractors, quads, motorbikes and horses accounted for almost half of all farm accidents.

“Equally concerning is that nearly 15 per cent of deaths involved children under 15 years and farm vehicles,” Mr Harvey said.

To read the full ACCC report on quad bikes, go to https://consultation.accc.gov.au/product-safety/quad-bike-safety-standard-exposure-draft/.

Submissions are currently being sought on the proposal, but must be made before June 10.

More farming news and stories can be read in the June, 2019 print edition of The Southern Farmer or click here to access digital editions.