Law’s wake-up call

New fa­tigue laws will al­lot crash re­spon­si­bil­ity, writes GRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Special Report -

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.

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