Fa­tigue rule changes likely

Owner Driver - - News -

RE­SEARCH IS due to com­mence on the ef­fects of heavy ve­hi­cle fa­tigue laws, a move the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (ATA) chair Noe­lene Wat­son says will im­prove in­dus­try safety.

The re­search project will mon­i­tor a sam­ple of driv­ers dur­ing their real-life work shifts, and then in a lab­o­ra­tory dur­ing sim­u­lated shifts.

The project is a joint ini­tia­tive be­tween the Co-op­er­a­tive Re­search Cen­tre for Alert­ness, Safety and Pro­duc­tiv­ity, the Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion, road agen­cies, po­lice and in­dus­try.

The ATA is a mem­ber of the project steer­ing com­mit­tee, which held its first meet­ing to­day.

“The Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law fa­tigue rules are com­plex, with de­tailed pro­vi­sions about how to count work and rest time and over­lap­ping 24 hour count­ing pe­ri­ods.

“Com­ply­ing with the rules is stress­ful for driv­ers and op­er­a­tors, be­cause of the risk of making a mis­take,” Wat­son says. “And de­spite the com­plex­ity of the rules, there is only lim­ited ev­i­dence avail­able about their impact on driver fa­tigue and safety.

“Some state en­force­ment agen­cies have called for changes to the rules, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to what are called nose-to-tail sched­ules.

“The ATA pointed out in 2014 that there was not enough ev­i­dence about the prac­tice for gov­ern­ments to make an in­formed de­ci­sion. The re­search will ad­dress this is­sue.

“The ATA also con­sid­ers that the re­search needs to cover the quan­tity and qual­ity of sleep that driv­ers get dur­ing ma­jor rest breaks, in­clud­ing the ben­e­fits of al­low­ing split rest so driv­ers can move their trucks to a qui­eter spot af­ter buy­ing food or hav­ing a shower.

“In ad­di­tion, there needs to be more re­search into short rest breaks and elec­tronic work di­ary tol­er­ances, as well as fa­tigue is­sues re­lat­ing to re­gional and re­mote op­er­a­tion.”

The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted more than $ 800,000 to the project.

The ATA was rep­re­sented at the meet­ing by its CEO, Ben Maguire.

The an­nounce­ment of the re­search, made by trans­port min­is­ter Dar­ren Chester, was crit­i­cised by the Trans­port Work­ers Union (TWU), which claims the axed Road Safety Re­mu­ner­a­tion Tri­bunal (RSRT) would have cut truck crashes by 28 per cent.

“We have had decades of re­search telling us truck driver fa­tigue is a ma­jor prob­lem and that fi­nan­cial pres­sure on truck­ing com­pa­nies and driv­ers them­selves is what is forc­ing peo­ple to drive long hours,” says TWU act­ing na­tional sec­re­tary Michael Kaine.

“We had a tri­bunal in place which was in­ves­ti­gat­ing this prob­lem and hold­ing wealthy re­tail­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers to ac­count for low-cost con­tracts which are at the root of the prob­lem.

“The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment tore this tri­bunal down and now it is spend­ing pub­lic money to make it look like it cares about deaths in truck crashes. In re­al­ity it is start­ing to look like they re­alise they got it wrong.”

Wat­son calls on the TWU to re­think its op­po­si­tion to the re­search.

“The TWU has an­nounced that it op­poses this re­search, ba­si­cally be­cause it does not in­volve re-es­tab­lish­ing the Road Safety Re­mu­ner­a­tion Tri­bunal,” she says.

“But fa­tigue ex­perts agree that more re­search is needed into the ef­fect of the fa­tigue rules.

“The re­search will im­prove safety – and help make sure the rules are no more com­pli­cated than is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.

“I call on the TWU to join the ATA in sup­port­ing the ex­pert re­searchers in­volved in this project.”

ATA chair Noe­lene Wat­son

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