The call from the bush is clear – change is needed to improve the safety of quad bikes and save lives.
Despite the pleas, the Federal Government is yet to adopt the recommendations of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s to fit operator protection devices (OPDs) to all new quad new bikes within two years.
There remain a number of myths that are often referred to as reason as to why NOT to adopt lifesaving mandatory OPDs. In National Farm Safety Week, it’s a good time to review and bust these myths
The Danger Myth:
OPDS are may cause as many injuries as they prevent
No injury or fatality has ever been attributed to an OPD. In fact, there has been only one recorded death in Australia where an OPD was fitted to a quad bike and the OPD played no part in the rider’s injuries. There are volumes of research that conclude that OPDs are an important safety device. That single exception is a self-serving report cited by manufacturers based on computer simulations. The academic and expert response to that study has been dismissive. The truth is that the idea that OPDs are dangerous is an outright fabrication.
The Inconvenience Myth:
OPDs will reduce the usability of quad bikes
The research shows that OPDs do not significantly impact the handling of quad bikes or restrict usability. Survey responses of riders who ride a bike with OPDs fitted are accepting and positive. That seems to be consistent with the experience in Israel (where there are no reports of issues reported despite a decades old requirement to fit OPDs), and the accounts the NFF hear from farmers who use OPDs and say they have little to no problems, even in bushland.
Nonetheless, the ACCC’s recommendations take these concerns into account. The requirement is intentionally broad so that the manufacturers can design or use OPD models which meet consumer concerns and expectations, like “Air-ROPS” which is virtual undetectable during normal use but automatically extends if the bike starts to roll dangerously.
The Nanny-State Myth:
The ACCC is creating harsh laws which will control the way I work and go about my business
With the exception of the requirement for OPDs, the standard isn’t controversial. It just requires bikes to comply with minimum handling and stability requirements, and for information to be attached to the bikes when they’re sold. Importantly, none of the Standards’ requirements directly apply to the rider, control the way the bike is used, or can result in penalising the rider’s behaviour. There’s nothing harsh or “punitive” about them.
The Cost Myth.
The requirement to fit OPDs will have a critical impact on the quad bike market.
The Standard only applies to newbikes at the point ofretailsale in two years’time. They would have no direct effect on the second-hand market or existing bikes.
To the extent that the requirements may raise the cost of new bikes, experts estimate that it would be about $250 per bike to develop and integrate OPDs. Obviously, it will be up to the manufacturers to decide how much of that cost to pass on.
Finally, although Yamaha and Honda have threatened to leave the Australian market if these standards are accepted, the NFF understands that Honda made the same threat when Israel introduced mandatory OPDs but only pulled their bikes from franchises and remained the strongest seller for years.
But even if they go ahead with the threat, the manufacturers which supply the remaining 55% of the market share (including Polaris and Mojo) can fill the void.
The market will change, but availability will not be a concern and given the increased awareness of the dangers, manufacturers who improve their product should see a sales bounce while the competition spike should benefit retailers.