Law’s wake-up call
New fatigue laws will allot crash responsibility, writes GRAHAMSMITH
DRIVER fatigue has been identified as one of the main factors in truck crashes and the industry is preparing to comply with new laws aimed at combating it.
The laws will come into affect next month.
It’s estimated driver fatigue is a contributing factor in 15 per cent of fatal crashes involving heavy trucks, 10 per cent of all serious crashes and 7 per cent of less severe crashes.
The annual cost of fatiguerelated heavy-vehicle crashes has been estimated at $250 million in addition to the human cost.
The heavy-vehicle driver fatigue laws aim to reduce the toll by setting revised work and rest limits and making everyone share responsibility when a crash occurs.
The long-overdue reform makes all parties in the road transport industry — not only drivers, but schedulers, consigners and consignees, and those who load and unload — legally responsible for preventing driver fatigue.
It will be illegal for any person to make a reckless or negligent demand that they reasonably should know will lead to a breach of the law. Severe penalties include fines of up to $50,000 and demerit points for offences that pose a serious road-safety risk.
The laws were developed by the National Transport Commission after consulting agencies, the road transport industry and unions.
To help drivers and operators better understand and comply with the laws, DECA Training is offering training.
‘‘The legislation requires drivers and managers responsible for driver scheduling to be trained in fatigue management and be formally assessed on fatigue management competency standards,’’ DECA managing director Ian Bushby says.
Lack of quality sleep is the primary cause of fatigue, Bushby says. Other contributing factors include working and driving long hours, drug-taking or driving under the influence of alcohol, not taking required rest breaks, night driving, poor driving conditions, poor cabin ventilation, poor noise insulation and poor driver health and fitness.
The new laws apply to trucks weighing more than 12 tonnes and buses with 12 or more seats.
Parties who, along with the driver, are considered links in the so-called chain of responsibility include the employer, prime contractor, operator, the person scheduling the goods or passengers to be transported, the goods consigner and consignee, the manager supervising the loading or unloading or who manages the premises where this happens, and the loader and unloader of the goods.
All have a role to play in ensuring driver fatigue does not occur.
If a driver breaches the new work and rest requirements, all other parties in the chain of responsibility can also be held liable unless they can show they took reasonable steps to prevent the offence. It is irrelevant whether or not they knew about the offence.
Drivers will still be held liable even if another party in the ‘‘chain’’ is found guilty.
‘‘The new legislation is a significant step in addressing one of the road transport industry’s most compelling and emotive issues and should play a major role in improving safety for all road users,’’ Bushby says.
Tire puncture: DECA managing director Ian Bushby sees the new legislation as a significant step.