Finding the flexibility to meet fatigue requirements

No matter our role or responsibility in the heavy vehicle industry, safety always needs to be the highest priority. Research consistently shows that one of the main risks to safety is fatigue.

Managing fatigue is particularly important for all heavy vehicle drivers on our roads, and the flow-on effect of one fatigued heavy vehicle driver can be catastrophic.

This is why we need to ensure the best policies, procedures and information are available to mitigate fatigue risks and keep everyone in our industry safe.

In January this year, we outlined our vision for better managing fatigue/distraction to the National Transport Commission’s review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

The law is now more than a decade old and just as the industry and technology has progressed, so too must the laws that govern safety. The submission was developed following significant consultation with industry stakeholders over a two-year period and outlines three key objectives to enhance the HVNL’s approach to fatigue.

This includes increased flexibility to enable drivers to rest when they are tired, supported by an agreed authority for drivers to stop when they’re not fit to drive.

It’s important to stress that flexibility doesn’t mean more hours – it means helping drivers better manage work and rest within current outer limits. It also includes ensuring the law recognises current and emerging safety technologies, such as Fatigue and Distraction Detection Technology (FDDT), which has been recognised as a game changer with the ability to alert drivers to potential incidents before they occur.

We know that the heavy vehicle laws can be difficult to follow and unnecessarily complex, which is why our submission provides clear, consistent, and concise recommendations on behalf of industry stakeholders.

Everyone benefits when rules are straight-forward and easy to comprehend. As we continue our discussions with Government and industry on the HVNL, we’re also focused on helping operators reduce fatigue risks now. Currently, most heavy vehicle operators are using the standard hours regime, with just six per cent signed up to Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) or Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) schemes.

These schemes allow operators to take advantage of safety systems that provide them with more flexibility in meeting fatigue requirements and improving safety. I’m particularly encouraged by research undertaken into the AFM scheme, which shows AFM accredited operators have better fatigue risk management systems, a stronger safety culture and better communication with their drivers.

Similarly, drivers who are part of the AFM scheme work fewer hours, with fewer infringements and crashes.

This is because AFM is comprehensive, flexible and prioritises safety and a conversation between drivers and operators about individual circumstances. For the past 18 months, we’ve been running Fatigue Choices sessions across the country to help operators assess their fatigue management needs — including assistance to convert BFM to AFM where appropriate.

We’ve delivered the program to 134 owners and operators across 16 locations and we’re continuing the conversation across Australia. The program is supported by a new booklet on AFM – Preparation to apply which breaks down the components of an AFM application and spells out descriptions of the elements the NHVR reviews when it receives an application.

Information on the program is available on the NHVR’s website and the free and personalised programs can be undertaken online. In addition to fatigue management standards, we’ll continue to focus on championing the growing role technology can play in the heavy vehicle industry.

I’m looking forward to an increased number of drivers taking advantage of Electronic Work Diaries, with six products currently approved and available for use. Similarly, we’re continuing to work alongside industry to realise the benefits of FDDTs, and better understand how we recognise new technology.

I’m encouraged by the safety potential that can be achieved by using technology in our industry and hope that over time, it becomes a staple for managing fatigue.

Sal Petroccitto CEO, NHVR

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