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Drivers’ professional judgement and trucking fatigue

Truck drivers have been making their voice heard in the fatigue law debate in the midst of the Heavy Vehicle National Law revamp. More than 240 truckies have responded to a survey by the Australian Trucking Association around proposed changes to the fatigue laws.

In one survey section, they asked for input on a proposed rule for fatigue management based on drivers, not vehicles.

“Just like in WA, different fatigue rules could apply to higher fatigue risk drivers, including truck drivers who work more than 60 hours a week, more than once a week for 10+ hours, or more than once a week between midnight and 5 am.”

“truck drivers and operators would have a responsibility to comply or be able to show that they are not higher fatigue risk drivers.”

Some 55% of respondents agreed with this proposal.

“Driver fatigue should be up to the driver to manage. After all, we are meant to be professional drivers but we aren’t allowed to manage anything because the log book controls us and any load managers only ask what does your book say. It’s never oh no worries you have a rest break because you feel buggered and get it in safely,” one driver noted.

I spoke to ISS CEO Dr Adam Fletcher about his thoughts on the issue:

I’ve been advocating for this for a decade. I’m very pleased to see the work-rest flexibility inclusions to the latest round of legislation.

You’ve got to create more provision for the driver, they’re actually the one in the hot seat. If they have an experience that they’re about to potentially have a microsleep, don’t you want them to not be under pressure to keep pushing? Don’t you want to create the capacity for them to be a professional and call it and find somewhere safe to pull over? You don’t want them to have the feeling that if they stop that it will mess up their regulated break in 30 minutes.

I think the key point here is, it’s very positive that there’s finally more of a focus on the essential system layer called “drivers’ professional judgement”. It’s a positive shift that drivers’ professional judgement is given a better voice than in the past. There’s still a need to balance the person with the process, which is hard, but there should definitely be not only power given to drivers to self-manage because they’re adults and should be given that right, but companies need to provide for buffers in their scheduling to permit flexibility to be available without creating new pressure on the driver. If the company just does a Google Maps evaluation of how long a trip is going to take and don’t add any buffers for drivers to have up their sleep, then even with the discussion around drivers having more of a voice, they may still feel pressure just to push on.

Companies really have to account for contingencies and buffers for driver discretion, traffic changes, weather delays, minor maintenance issues etc.

It’s a very positive development, but there’s still a lot for companies to do to make it culturally and practically available for drivers to speak up.

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