Farmers fear proposed changes to quad bikes could make them less efficient and more dangerous.

Three dairy farmers from northern Victoria and southern NSW have spoken out against proposals by the ACCC for mandatory Crush Protection Devices (CPDs).

Instead, the farmers have backed calls by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) for mandatory helmets and better training.

The farmers say quad bikes are a vital part of their businesses but adding CPDs would not be practical.

Neville, a dairy Farmer from Finley NSW, says quad bikes are essential for his business.

“We use them all day, every day,” he said. “Quad bikes are safe machines; it’s all about how you drive them. Most staff can’t ride a two-wheel motorbike as safely as they do a four-wheeler.

All of his staff have completed quad bike training and helmets are compulsory on the farm.

The ACCC proposals caught Neville by surprise and he fears proposed new fixtures such as rollover protection devices would make quad bikes less safe while adding to the cost.

“From what we have seen, we don’t think that CPDs will help make quad bikes any safer,” he said.

“Our farm is set up with electric gates that we drive under; it would be very difficult to go under them with roll bars so they wouldn't be user-friendly machines. If we had these rollover protection devices fitted we wouldn't be able to carry irrigation timers.”

“It could make them substantially less efficient and if it becomes inefficient or hard to do, people take short cuts, which we don’t want to happen.”

Neville supports accredited training programs and mandatory helmets and suggests better helmet designs that provide safety plus sun protection and coolness.

He also advocates speed limiters and videos showing how to safely ride a quad bike. “Good common sense isn't very common anymore,” he added.

“If they can come up with something that works for everybody we’d go along with it, but some of the things they’re trying to do at the moment have got safety flaws in them.”

“Training is the most important part.”

John, from Strathmerton VIC, believes there are situations where rollover protection isn’t needed or could be dangerous.

“We’ve tipped quad bikes before…the roll cage didn’t make any difference,” he said.

John advocates more training so riders are better equipped to deal with weight distribution and movement.

“They’re dangerous bits of equipment if they’re not used properly. You can easily have an accident if you don’t concentrate.”

He also supports mandatory helmets. “Helmets might take a little bit to get used to but that’s probably the thing that’s going to work. If you have an accident and haven’t got a helmet on you’re in trouble.”

“We’ve got to try to keep making things better all the time and make our workplace safer.”

Anthony, from Numurkah VIC, has mixed feelings about the ACCC proposals and questions the logistics of CPDs.

“A bar over the top is a simple thing but we’ve heard reports that they’re not very practical,” he said. “I worry that they would get too heavy. They’re (ATVs) the only thing to get the job done efficiently and efficiency is a big part of our business.”

However, he backs FCAI calls for compulsory helmets and better training.

“You’ve got to respect them and ride them properly, if not they become dangerous,” he said. “Helmets are great safety features. I won’t get on a bike without one.”

FCAI ATV Manager Mark Collins agrees with the farmers: “The ACCC is proposing CPDs and changes to ATV handling characteristics as part of new standards for these vehicles. Unfortunately, current research data shows that CPDs don’t qualify as a safety device as they can cause as many injuries as they may prevent,” he said.

The FCAI is also concerned that the ACCC’s preferred vehicle changes were developed and proposed by someone who is not an engineer. The FCAI calls on the ACCC to confirm that any proposals are developed by qualified engineers, and there is evidence to ensure that safety outcomes will be improved.”

Manufacturers and the FCAI believe there are known safety practices that should be followed up by state governments straight away.

These key recommendations include:

  • Mandating helmets for all ATV riders
  • Banning children aged under 16 from riding adult ATVs
  • Banning passengers from riding single-seat ATVs

If these proven measures were implemented now, fatalities could be reduced by more than 50%.