Fox fighting road kill
The push is on digital tachographs, writesGRAHAMSMITH
TRUCKING magnate Lindsay Fox is demanding governments follow Europe’s example and legislate for mandatory digital tachographs to reduce the death toll among truck drivers who fall asleep at the wheel and run off the road.
‘‘I’m pushing very hard to have them brought in here,’’ Fox tells Big Wheels. ‘‘Drivers use the traditional log books here, but they are a total waste of time.’’
Fox says the digital tachographs, with a ‘‘smart card’’ for each individual driver, would put an end to drivers exceeding the legal time for which they are allowed to drive without a break.
Crashes caused by trucks running off the road, mostly because the driver has fallen asleep, are the most common cause of truck accidents in Australia.
‘‘They’re the killers,’’ Fox says. ‘‘Running off the road is where drivers get killed.’’
Half of all heavy-duty truck crashes in Australia are through trucks running off the road, the next most common causes being rearend collisions and collisions at intersections.
In contrast, only 15 per cent of crashes in Europe, where the smart digital tachographs have been fitted by law to every truck for about a year, are the result of trucks running off the road.
There, the most common cause of crashes is rear-end collisions, which account for 33 per cent of all crashes.
Fox says the main cause of trucks running off the road is the driver falling asleep because they’ve pushed on instead of taking rest breaks as the law requires and thus exceeded the allowable time at the wheel.
The problem is worse among owner-drivers, who are under enormous pressure to make deadlines and pay leases on their trucks, and are often locked into contracts that don’t let them pass on increases in their operating costs, such as the increased cost of diesel.
In an effort to cover these increased costs drivers often push everything to the limit, and sometimes things go wrong.
‘‘This system works against an ownerdriver because they have to cheat to make an income,’’ Fox says.
‘‘But all of a sudden they will have to be paid enough to justify their existence, whereas now they’re not.’’
The digital tachograph keeps a record of a driver’s time at the wheel for a year, along with data such as the truck’s speed and engine speed, so authorities can download information on what a driver has been doing, or employers can check on a particular driver at the end of shift, the completion of a journey, or in the aftermath of a crash.
Each driver has a unique card that must be used before they set out on a trip, so the information recorded can be related back to a particular person.
Fox says that keeping a tight rein on drivers would reduce the degree of driver fatigue and thus result in fewer crashes through drivers nodding off and running their vehicles off the road.
Fox is so passionate about it he has lobbied governments to introduce laws making the tachographs mandatory.
Fox has two trucks fitted with the tachographs and will have a total of 15 of them, involving 30 drivers, on the road by January.
They will be part of a national trial of 35 trucks being run over the next 12 months.
Crash crisis: running off the road is the most common cause of truck accidents; and (below) Lindsay Fox and ex-state premier Steve Bracks at the 2020 summit.