Bullbars – yes or no?For your employees
As an HR professional, you’re in charge of all sorts of vehicle policies that need to keep your people safe: How should mobile phones be operated in company vehicles? How do you police drug and alcohol use? Who can drive the vehicle and when? What are the regulations around travelling with family and friends as passengers? Are there any restrictions as to where employees can take their company vehicles?
Among this list, don’t forget the safety question of ‘bullbars – yes or no?’
When it comes to bullbars, roo bars or nudge bars (whatever you prefer to call them), the subject of whether they should be fitted to a vehicle can be divisive. What can be agreed on, though, is that fitting bullbars depends in large part on where and how the vehicle is used, and your vehicle policies when it comes to your employees’ use of company vehicles for recreational pursuits beyond their job responsibilities.
For example, drivers who use their vehicle to enjoy the great outdoors, or who do the bulk of their driving outside of a major city, consider bullbars an essential after-market addition to their vehicle. Conversely, almost every reputable motoring organisation and statutory body agree that cars in large cities and outer suburban areas neither need, nor should, have bullbars fitted to their vehicle.
In this article, we weigh up the pros and cons of fitting bullbars to your company vehicles. And, for the sake of brevity, when we’re talking about bullbars, we’re including roo bars and nudge bars in that definition as well.
What you need to know
If you choose to equip a company vehicle with a bullbar, there are a number of statutory requirements that need to be adhered to, including Australian Design Rule 42/04 – General Safety Requirements and Australian Standard AS 4876-1.
Under these guidelines, the bullbar must follow the profile of the motor vehicle to which it is secured, the bullbar cannot increase the width of the vehicle (excluding the mirrors), any sharp edges must be chamfered or rounded off, no open-ended frame members are allowed, and no small components (like brackets) shall be attached to the front of the bullbar.
it is essential you ensure the company fitting your bullbar is aware of these statutory obligations and makes sure whatever they’re adding to your vehicle meets standards.
If your employees do a lot of driving on rough, unsealed roads, a bullbar is a very handy after-market addition to the vehicle. They’re also good value on vehicles that do most of their mileage on country roads. Far from being exclusively for 4WD vehicles, it’s commonplace to see bullbars fitted to sedans and commercial utes in regional and rural Australia.
Of course, it’s hard to argue against the aesthetics of a tricked-out 4WD with a sweet-looking bullbar at the front. But the main reasons in the pro column for fitting bullbars are safety, protection and convenience.
Bullbars do a fantastic job of protecting the occupants of a vehicle when in a collision, whether that collision involves another car, or an animal like a cow or a kangaroo. They also afford the front of the vehicle – the engine bay, cooling system, the electrics and your suspension – an added layer of protection in those types of incidents, or incidents in which roadside debris or fallen trees that can’t be seen while driving at night or in hazardous conditions, could cause significant damage to the vehicle.
Bullbars are also a great mounting point to attach important off-road equipment such as winches, LED spotlights and driving lights, and antennas. Plus, they make an excellent recovery point option if the vehicle ends up bogged or in difficulty and needs to be winches or towed to safety.
The cons of fitting a bulbar to a company vehicle can be numerous. Apart form the significant cost, there are plenty of safety and vehicle design and engineering integrity issues that come into play.
One of the biggest plusses in having a bullbar is also one of their most significant disadvantages. While a bullbar unequivocally increases the level of safety for the occupants of a vehicle involved in a collision, it also increases the likelihood of serious injury – even death – for the occupants of any other vehicle in the incident.
Additionally, bullbars increase the likelihood of serious or permanent injury, or even death, for pedestrians or cyclists struck by a vehicle with a bullbar fitted. According to VicRoads, a pedestrian can usually survive a collision with a vehicle travelling at or below 60 km/h. However, if the car is fitted with a bullbar, the speed at which the pedestrian will survive is only 30 km/h.
Some other cons associated with having a bullbar attached to a vehicle include decreased fuel efficiency from the increased weight, compromised front suspension if it hasn’t been strengthened to accommodate the addition of the bullbar, and the possibility of having indicators, headlights and general field of vision partly obscured.
Research has shown that airbags on vehicles fitted with a bullbar may not work properly and side impact crashes are more serious. As stated by VicRoads, the forces exerted by the vehicle with a bullbar, particularly a 4WD, will impact higher up the vehicle, and closer to the head and chest of its occupants.
While there’s a place for bullbars, HR professionals and fleet managers would be wise not to make snap decisions when it comes to fitting bullbars to company vehicles.
The biggest argument for bullbars is when your company vehicles are subject to periods on country or remote roads but, otherwise, it’s a matter of weighing up vital fit-for-purpose requirements with the higher liability profile of your organisation could be exposed to in the event of a serious incident.
To fit or not to fit a bullbar? That is the question.
For help sharing the best vehicle safety policies for your business, talk to SG Fleet.