Unofficial tribute

Rodney G. Vaughan

Rod Vaughan, BE, MEngSc, FIEAust FSAEAust, passed away on 5 August 2001 aged 57. He is survived by his wife Pam and daughters Katherine and Kristin.

Rod was an excellent researcher in his field of automotive engineering. He joined the Department of Motor Transport (DMT) in 1967 and contributed to the formation of the NSW Traffic Accident Research Unit (TARU). Between 1967 and 1976 he worked on many road safety issues that are now taken for granted. These included seat belts, child restraints, motor cycle helmets, multi-disciplinary accident investigation teams and the coding and analysis of Police traffic accident reports.

From the late 1970s he headed the Mechanical Engineering Branch at the DMT. He initiated a national scheme for the recalls of defective vehicles and contributed to the development of many national vehicle standards and procedures. He also built up the DMT's capabilities for improving the safety and environmental performance of motor vehicles. In 1980 he established the Mobile Inspection Division - a "flying squad" of motor vehicle inspectors who checked the roadworthiness of heavy trucks and buses at the roadside. Alarming results from those random inspections enabled him to convince the government to introduce annual roadworthiness inspections of trucks by DMT inspectors - the Heavy Vehicle Inspection Scheme.

He also contributed to research and policy development in the field of vehicle roadworthiness in the USA, Europe and Japan and keenly exchanged ideas with researchers in those countries. His was the first Australian member of the International Vehicle Inspection Committee, a United Nations agency.

He was not only a researcher but a practical person at the same time -- a relatively uncommon combination that made him a fine engineer. This practical bent for solving problems led him to make and do many things. The one that epitomises them all was his "Truckalyser" a portable device for measuring the condition of brakes, steering and suspension on trucks at the roadside.

In 1989, recognition for the excellence of this device resulted in Rod being awarded the Rolls Royce/Qantas Award for Engineering Excellence, the inaugural Australian Professional Engineer of the Year by the Institution of Engineers Australia and the Medal of the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering from the University of Sydney. He was a founding member of the Australian Academy of Design.

Also in 1989 he provided on-site advice to NSW government ministers at the scene of the horrific Grafton bus crash in which 20 people died. Soon after he also investigated the crash between two coaches at Kempsey. These investigations eventually led to improved safety standards for buses and coaches in Australia and an overhaul of national heavy vehicle driver licensing procedures.

In 1990 Rod began his own practice as a consulting engineer. He developed further some unique concepts as to how people, both drivers and pedestrians, interact with vehicles in potentially dangerous situations.

He also investigated the safety of older vehicles. This work resulted in the Wheels 92 Conference, sponsored by the Institution of Engineers Australia.

Rod became an expert witness in motor vehicle legal matters. Here his skills for research, analysis, piecing together of evidence and painstaking description of what most likely happened, coupled with his sense of the rightness of things, his sense of ethics, made him outstanding in his field.

His reputation internationally was also well developed and he was sought after as a contributor to conferences on vehicle safety and the interaction of people and vehicles by such eminent bodies as the Society of Automotive Engineers, USA and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, UK.

Rod Vaughan made an enormous contribution to the field of road safety and the engineering profession.

Several years ago his wife Pam joined the consulting business. They formed a highly capable team with her strong research skills and Rod's engineering background. For recreation they enjoyed bushwalking, snow skiing and yachting.

(Prepared by his many friends and colleagues in the road safety field.)