An Australian research review blasts US quad bike research

In February 2012, the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released a research report into the efficacy of crush protection devices (CPDs) on all-terrain vehicles or, more accurately, quad-bikes.  The report summary states that

“Experimental tests conducted by the University of Southern Queensland indicate that the Quad Bar CPD is capable of either preventing a complete roll, or modifying the roll event to reduce the risk and severity of injury to the rider for both side roll and back flip scenarios. These results highlight the potential for CPDs such the Quad Bar to reduce rider injuries and fatalities resulting from low speed roll over incidents;”

Great news for the manufacturer of the Quad Bar.  However the report is damning of some research into quad bike rollovers, particularly that which has been relied on by the quad bike manufacturers to resist the application of CPDs.

The findings, some listed below, show that research in this area, particularly from some sources, is highly suspect.  That some sections of the quad bike industry persisted in denying any holes in their research has now been shown to be self-serving.  That this research has delayed the implementation of potentially life-saving devices on quad bikes, such as CPDs, will provide little comfort to those families whose relatives have died during the period of this unnecessary, and now found to be, unsubstantiated, disputation.

ISCRR’s criticisms of the quad bike research should generate a review of some of the quad bike safety guidelines that have been published over recent years by OHS and safety regulators as the “evidence” for some of the policy decisions has been shown to be very questionable.  If evidence-based policy making is a major aim of government, then when that evidence has been shown to be inaccurate, the policy needs urgent reassessment.

ISCRR has some sound recommendations for research in this area in the future.

“A working group containing representatives from the major stakeholders in this issue be formed and asked to plan out and agree on the nature and specification of future research activities before they are undertaken.”

This will be a difficult challenge as the previous cross-Tasman working group on quad bike safety generated a walk-out by the manufacturers’ representative when many of the questions about quad bike research were raised.  It will be difficult for the manufacturers to return to the table and regain legitimacy without first acknowledging the failure of their previous campaign strategy.

“A preliminary standard be proposed for the design and specification of Quad bike CPDs, perhaps based upon the existing New Zealand guidelines, or those for Tractor ROPS.”

The CPD manufacturers should welcome this process as, even though it may be a long process, will add independent a technical legitimacy to the devices.  The experience with tractor roll over protection structures (ROPS) was that many farmers manufactured their own when design standards were available.

In the light of the ISCRR’s findings, OHS regulators should begin to dust off their ROPS rebate schemes and start considering their application to CPDs.

“Funding is sourced from government or OH&S regulatory bodies for additional research into Quad bike crush protection devices [and] the research is undertaken in Australia by researchers with expertise in this field.”

The latter part of the recommendations is a major rejection of US-based research relied upon by the manufacturers, particularly the work undertaken for Dynamic Research Incorporated  by John W Zellner, a researcher who spent some time in Australia and attended some conferences in Australia in 2011.

The full research report, available by emailing ISCRR or contacting ISCRR though its website, provides an excellent critical analysis of many quad bike research reports quoted in SafetyAtWorkBlog over the last few years.  It also provides a detailed rebuttal of many of the objections to the Quad Bar made by the Federated Chamber of Automotive Industries.

The full report has the following conclusion which has the potential to form the basis of a new quad bike industry relationship, one that emphasises the undoubted practicality and popularity of the vehicle AND recognises the need to improve rider safety through innovative design and engineering solutions.

“This review identifies serious issues with the simulation methods used and the nature of incidents tested to predict the effect of crush protection devices on Quad bike roll over injuries and fatalities.  Limited experimental and simulation results indicate that the Quad Bar crush protection device demonstrates potential to reduce rider harm in such events.  Further research should be commissioned by government bodies and conducted by researchers with experience in the field to fully quantify these potential benefits.”

Kevin Jones

Below is a slightly edited list of some of those ISCRR criticisms:

“Various simulation programs (including MADYMO, ATB and MATD) were adapted and used by researchers to model Quad bike accident scenarios. A large number of shortcomings were identified with these models. Most importantly, none of the models were able to predict asphyxiation fatalities which accounted for 40% of Australian Quad bike roll over deaths;

The computer simulations were loosely based on Quad bike incident descriptions …[that]… were extremely brief and contained insufficient information to accurately define the accident scenarios;

Several issues were identified with the methods used to model the different terrains, particularly the ground stiffness and friction coefficients chosen, and the extreme length of the slopes commonly modelled. These factors appear to have generated roll dynamics and injury outcomes which are potentially inaccurate;

The Dynamic Research Inc. (DRI) research in particular caused a substantial and unexplained shift in the nature of the injuries predicted, dramatically over-predicting head injuries and virtually eliminating chest injuries. This shift in the nature of injuries predicted by the simulations removed much of the potential for crush protection devices tested to reduce the simulated rider injuries;

The method described by ISO 13232 for calculating risk benefit ratios was found to be extremely susceptible to influences from a range of factors including: the test scenarios chosen, the inherent variability in each case, and the methods used to compare minor, non permanent injuries with fatalities;

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) is an industry body which represents the major importers and distributors of Quad bikes within Australia, including Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Polaris and Bombardier. …. Their reasons for rejecting such devices cannot be supported given the major problems with the research methodologies identified by this review.”

Categories ATV, business, design, evidence, innovation, OHS, quad bike, research, risk, safety, transportTags , , ,

6 thoughts on “An Australian research review blasts US quad bike research”

  1. I agree Dave, I sat in on some of the Coronial Inqest to 6 deaths from quad bikes in Victoria where several of my clients had lost loved ones.
    While it is a tradgedy to lose a loved one in any circumstances in this case some of the deaths were due to bad design such as tanks of liquid on the front or rear..or in some case it was due to driver era.

    The issue of driver era needs to be addressed as I still see drivers with no helmuts and using the bikes in areas that is unsafe…in my mind the name “all terain vechile” needs to be changed as these bikes should only be used on flat areas rather than in the hills.

    Some still use the bikes for all the wrong reasons..like joyriding or taking passengers…

  2. This comes as no surprise to this dairy farmer. Our two quad bikes are fitted with QuadBars because it just makes sense.

    At 8kg, the bars are so light they can hardly alter the centre of gravity and their footprint is tiny, especially when compared to the surface area of an upturned quad that the idea of extra pinch points is nothing short of idiocy in my view.

    In other words, the US research was never compelling to me because the objections it raised were patently silly to anyone in my position. And at the end of the day, it’s my farm, my family and my employees at stake.

  3. If the FCAI had any level of decency, they would apologize to the families who have lost loved ones from the use of their products.

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