Our CEO Ron Zacka talks quad-bike safety12/01/2016
Are Quad Bikes Safe?
Growing concern about the safety of quad-bikes commonly used on farms has been making a lot of headlines recently.
According to a recent University of Sydney study, these fun-looking work horses have claimed 23 lives and caused 56 ijuries in one year alone in Australia, making them twice as dangerous as tractors. With 78% of these accidents taking place on farms and 18% involving children under 16 years of age, we have to look closely at risk reduction strategies around quad-bikes.
While most quad-bike manufacturers adhere to stringent quality and safety standards, some such as Hi-Sun go further, road testing each and every bike before it is packed for shipment. The officially-appointed importer of Hi-sun products, Parklands Power Products, a long-standing industry leader in the field of quad-bikes and UTV’s, also do their own additional testing here in Australia.
Ron Takes Safety Seriously
Parklands CEO Ron Zacka, who has been in the game for over 40 years, takes the safety issue very seriously.
‘I keep hearing about the roll bar or Crush Protection Device (CPD) again and again, but unless you have seatbelts fitted, they are not going to offer much greater protection. And of course, quad drivers would then actually have to use them, which may actually present the bigger challenge,’ Zacka said.
Ron Zacka, who sells the majority of his quad bikes to the farming sector through a nationwide dealer network, has frequently witnessed unsafe use of these machines - including the use of them at excessive speeds, without the wearing of helmets, and by young children who should not be allowed to operate such machines, some of which are as powerful as a road bike or a small car.
As Zacka further explained, ‘Another big issue is that people tend to overload the bikes with fodder, equipment and materials making them prone to tip or roll, which is the biggest danger of these otherwise reasonably safe vehicles. Add to that a little extra speed and you take a perfectly safe quad-bike into a danger zone.
The Trend towards UTVs
‘More and more farmers have switched to Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTV’s), which are set out more like a car, have a broader frame, better height/width ratio and are hence much more stable without compromising on capability. These have side-by-side seating, allow for a wide range of utility attachments and have ample storage for fodder, materials, tools and equipment. Most of these come with protective frames, seat belts windshield and roof as well as doors and are overall safer even with engines of up to 800cc’.
Safety is of course an ongoing and major concern, but if one type of machine claims that many lives and injuries, we need to seriously look at the how and why. Despite warning stickers, recommendations and stringent testing as to the maximum capacity of quad bikes, unnecessary risk keeps being created by attempting too steep slopes, overloading the quad bikes and driving them at too high speeds and often without protective gear.
Parklands' Tests, Tests and Tests
‘We actually took our range of quads and UTV’s through another test recently, getting bike and 4WD experts to push the quads to their limit at the 4WD track at Eastern Creek Speedway and on a farm near Sydney’, Zacka reports.
‘The idea was to really test the bikes’ capacity and despite considerable experience among the drivers and no excessive loads, we managed to tip a few.
‘This just clearly reinforced to us all that when there is a speed and weight recommendation sticker on a machine, the idea is to stay below it, not to push well beyond it. Following the recommendations would make the use of quad-bikes a lot safer, safer even than roll bars and seatbelts could make them.’
Parklands National Dealership Network - Experts in Their Field
While Parklands offers expert advice through their 800-strong national dealership network, it is crucial that if bars are fitted the right bars for the right model quad must be fitted. Some bikes actually don’t have the capacity or frame to support these devices. Makeshift fitting of bars may actually increase the risk for drivers as a roll-over impact could damage the bike and make such very dangerous even if wearing a seatbelt.
The quad-bike safety issue seems to have two sides to it; one of manufacturers going to greater lengths to improve suspension and doing stringent capability testing, and the second of operators of quad-bikes riding them with more caution and common-sense.
‘As simple as uneven or too high tyre pressure especially on older quads that don’t have independent suspension, can be enough to easily flip a quad-bike when one wheel hits a rock or log’, explains Zacka.
Not surprising though, more farmers are choosing UTV’s to replace the old quad bike. And when it comes to kids, quads should not be operated by drivers under the age of 16. In a farm working environment, this may be somewhat impractical, but there should be a call for greater caution on ‘how’ these otherwise safe work horses are being used. ‘With seven children of my own this was always a challenge on out 500-acre farm when it came time to ride the quads and dirt bikes’, finishes Zacka.