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Truck driver fatigue research to improve safety

19 January 2017


New research into the effects of the truck driver fatigue rules will improve safety, the Chair of the Australian Trucking Association, Noelene Watson, said today.

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,” Mrs Watson said.

“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.”

Mrs Watson called 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 said.

“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,” she said.  

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

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