A hid­ing to noth­ing

Ques­tions re­main about the vol­un­tary use of elec­tronic work di­aries and any real safety ben­e­fits

Owner Driver - - Safety Accelerator - Daniel Elkins DANIEL ELKINS has a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in the safety and as­sur­ance (com­pli­ance and en­force­ment) space, is a safety ac­cel­er­a­tor and one of Aus­tralia’s fore­most pro­gres­sive safety thinkers.

“It’s ham­per­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and not ef­fec­tive in sav­ing lives.”

THE ELEC­TRONIC WORK DI­ARY (EWD) saga cur­rently un­fold­ing in the reg­u­la­tory space re­minds me of a line from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come”. In the US they are called an elec­tronic log­ging de­vice (ELD or E-Log) and have been man­dated for all heavy ve­hi­cles since 2015, while in Europe the dig­i­tal tacho­graph and ana­logue ver­sion has been manda­tory since 2005.

After ex­ten­sive use in the US and Europe, why isn’t Aus­tralia fol­low­ing suit by man­dat­ing the use of this tech­nol­ogy to save lives?

THE PROB­LEM

The Ma­jor Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Re­port 2017 pub­lished by Na­tional Trans­port In­sur­ance (NTI) in­di­cates that 12.2 per cent of ma­jor heavy ve­hi­cle in­ci­dents (over $50,000) in­volv­ing their clients were fa­tigue re­lated. The Na­tional Road Safety Strat­egy 2011-2020 in­di­cates that be­tween 20 to 30 per cent of deaths and 8 per cent of se­ri­ous in­juries are re­lated to fa­tigue in all ve­hi­cle cat­e­gories.

Ob­vi­ously, fa­tigue is a se­ri­ous road safety is­sue and one that is em­i­nently pre­ventable. The dif­fi­culty is that there is no ac­cu­rate un­der­stand­ing of the fa­tigue prob­lem in the heavy ve­hi­cle in­dus­try. Lit­tle is known about the rates of fa­tigue as a causal fac­tor in heavy ve­hi­cle in­ci­dents. Is it more prom­i­nent in lon­gor short-haul op­er­a­tions? En­force­ment agency in­ves­ti­ga­tions are very still very cur­sory and not un­der­taken or recorded con­sis­tently na­tion­ally. NTI data in­di­cates that 68.9 per cent of out­bound heavy ve­hi­cle jour­neys rep­re­sent the high­est fa­tigue-re­lated in­ci­dents.

Why is a vol­un­tary EWD on a hid­ing to noth­ing? The Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor (NHVR) hasn’t pro­vided a case study or in­for­ma­tion ex­plain­ing the po­ten­tial pro­duc­tiv­ity or safety ben­e­fits of EWD to in­dus­try. Do they an­tic­i­pate the adop­tion of EWD will save one life or 10 lives per an­num or re­duce fa­tigue-re­lated in­ci­dents from 30 to 15 per cent? What might be the po­ten­tial pro­duc­tiv­ity sav­ings to an op­er­a­tor by in­stalling an EWD?

No op­er­a­tor will ex­pose them­selves to con­stant mon­i­tor­ing and the po­ten­tial for con­tin­u­ous en­force­ment ac­tion by reg­u­la­tors un­less there are clear pro­duc­tiv­ity and road safety ben­e­fits.

What then is the in­tent of the NHVR in mak­ing the EWD vol­un­tary? There is no stated ob­jec­tive or pub­lished plan from the NHVR about the outcomes it is seek­ing from a vol­un­tary EWD scheme. Is it go­ing to un­der­take re­search of the ef­fec­tive­ness of the scheme? If it does con­duct re­search, what method­ol­ogy is pro­posed? How will they col­lect data from op­er­a­tors? What would suc­cess of the study look like? Will op­er­a­tors be com­pelled to hand over EWD data for re­search pur­poses?

UNAN­SWERED QUES­TIONS

As a vol­un­tary scheme, what would the NHVR con­sider to be a suc­cess­ful up­take and over what pe­riod? The In­tel­li­gence Ac­cess Pro­gram is plagued by is­sues around the ac­cu­racy of the GPS tech­nol­ogy and self-dec­la­ra­tions by driv­ers. As a re­sult, pros­e­cu­tions are rare, with most juris­dic­tions opt­ing to give warn­ings or send show cause let­ters.

The cur­rent NHVR EWD Pol­icy Frame­work and Stan­dards doesn’t deal with how road­side/back of­fice en­force­ment for th­ese types of sce­nar­ios will be ad­dressed. Where is the NHVR’s com­pli­ance and en­force­ment strat­egy or plan for EWD? When might we see this pub­lished? The re­cent Op­er­a­tion Shield said the op­er­a­tion was part of the NHVR’s Safety Pro­gram. If so, when will the Safety Pro­gram be pub­lished?

The lack of trans­parency and accountability con­tin­ues to per­sist as a per­ma­nent fix­ture in reg­u­la­tory agency cul­ture around heavy ve­hi­cle en­force­ment.

How many more Op­er­a­tion Shields are to be con­ducted dur­ing 2018 and beyond? What are they ex­pected to achieve? This re­cent op­er­a­tion re­ported a to­tal of 11,881 ve­hi­cles units were in­spected. Of the 5,824 (read driv­ers) in­ter­cepted, there were 119 in­di­vid­ual fa­tigue of­fences. That equates to just a 2.4 per cent of­fend­ing rate for fa­tigue.

At what cost to the tax payer and the heavy ve­hi­cle in­dus­try? If we as­sume an in­ter­cept on av­er­age lasted ap­prox­i­mately 30 min­utes, based on Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion (NTC)* data we as­sume it costs $328 per ve­hi­cle to in­spect and cost in­dus­try $1,047. A ba­sic es­ti­mate puts the op­er­a­tion cost at $16.3 mil­lion dol­lars (11,881 x $1,375). A to­tal of 1,302 of­fences were de­tected, with each in­di­vid­ual of­fence cost­ing ap­prox­i­mately $12,500 to de­tect**.

How can this be de­scribed as tar­geted en­force­ment? Par­tic­u­larly when en­force­ment agen­cies fail to in­di­cate the ben­e­fit cost (the num­ber of lives saved, or se­ri­ous in­juries pre­vented) as a re­sult of such op­er­a­tions.

As the US and Europe have been op­er­at­ing th­ese schemes for some time, what data is there re­gard­ing the suc­cess they have achieved? To date, I have found no stud­ies re­gard­ing the suc­cess or fail­ure of EWDs in th­ese coun­tries.

When might we see the NHVR put in place mea­sures to as­sess the suc­cess of ei­ther the pro­posed vol­un­tary scheme or a fu­ture com­pul­sory EWD scheme?

The NTC, the NHVR and the Alert­ness Co­op­er­a­tive Re­search Cen­tre (CRC) will fi­nalise a com­pre­hen­sive study of fa­tigue in ap­prox­i­mately June of 2018.

Per­haps then we will have a more ac­cu­rate un­der­stand­ing of fa­tigue in the heavy ve­hi­cle in­dus­try and see ap­pro­pri­ate ev­i­dence and risk-based strate­gies de­vel­oped that move away from dra­co­nian en­force­ment meth­ods like Op­er­a­tion Aus­trans, Rolling Thun­der and Shield where the en­tire in­dus­try is pun­ished un­nec­es­sar­ily for a hand­ful of very costly of­fence de­tec­tions.

WHAT IS THE SO­LU­TION?

Fa­tigue is com­plex and there are many fac­tors which af­fect driv­ers in very dif­fer­ent ways when work­ing.

It is well known that there is no sub­sti­tute for a good sleep rou­tine. A healthy diet and ex­er­cise are also ways to com­bat the ef­fects of work on the hu­man body.

From a reg­u­la­tory per­spec­tive, the fo­cus should be on en­sur­ing in­dus­try and op­er­a­tors have ap­pro­pri­ate sys­tems in place to man­age fa­tigue. In par­tic­u­lar, guid­ance to as­sist op­er­a­tors de­velop ef­fec­tive poli­cies and pro­ce­dures within their busi­ness. It would ap­pear pre-trip pre­pared­ness is a crit­i­cal fac­tor to ad­dress. As we are all in­di­vid­ual, de­vel­op­ing flex­i­bil­ity in man­ag­ing fa­tigue is im­por­tant and more work is re­quired in this space.

Tech­nol­ogy has a sig­nif­i­cant role to play and if de­ployed cor­rectly can de­tect drowsi­ness and the on­set of fa­tigue po­ten­tially pre­vent­ing an in­ci­dent.

How­ever, with­out ap­pro­pri­ate poli­cies in place about how driv­ers and sched­ulers are to deal with th­ese de­tec­tions they will de­liver lit­tle ben­e­fit. De­vel­op­ing poli­cies and pro­ce­dures about what to do in the event a driver be­comes fa­tigued dur­ing a jour­ney is para­mount.

The abil­ity for a driver to stop and rest is cru­cial and be­ing able to do so with­out con­se­quence is es­sen­tial to man­ag­ing fa­tigue risk. The en­force­ment land­scape must change. The mod­erni­sa­tion of en­force­ment to be­come an ev­i­dence- and risk-based ac­tiv­ity can’t hap­pen soon enough. It’s ham­per­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and not ef­fec­tive in sav­ing lives.

Crit­i­cal safety risks that cause harm, se­ri­ous in­jury and death should be the fo­cus. It is no longer ac­cept­able or fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble for en­force­ment agen­cies to con­tinue to con­duct op­er­a­tions which in­ter­cept heavy ve­hi­cles en masse in an ef­fort to be seen to be ad­dress­ing road safety.

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