Fox fight­ing road kill

The push is on dig­i­tal tachographs, writesGRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

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.

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