The National Transport Commission (NTC) hopes to resolve the dispute over whether current fatigue management regulations are creating a safety risk.
The NTC believes that by collecting real life operational data they will be able to address the dispute over the time counting rule and whether it is actually doing more harm than good by creating a safety risk, as police in some states claim.
The agency aims to accomplish this by developing new data collection framework which involves input from the industry and government in order to resolve the dispute over the time counting rule which is used for fatigue management regulations.
Fatigue is responsible for a number of crashes and fatalities on our roads every year, yet the topic of fatigue management is an often overlooked one. Many people do not deem fatigue management as a serious issue as they would for example vehicle maintenance, but fatigue is also a killer on our roads and needs to be dealt with as you would any other issue affecting road safety.
In the latest bid to resolve the dispute, the NTC together with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will work together with other groups from within the industry and the government to collate data from real life. They will also examine the work diaries and shifts of drivers who recorded fatigue-related incidents.
It is the hope of the NTC to use the information to determine if the method currently used to count driver work hours and rest breaks is actually causing a fatigue risk.
The dispute revolves around the fact that South Australian and Victorian authorities believe drivers are able to manipulate the rule in order to exceed the maximum number of driving hours. Those within the industry and government do not share these sentiments.
An article which recently appeared on Fullyloaded.com.au website quoted NTC Chairperson David Anderson who stated:
“There is no consensus on the degree and nature of fatigue risk associated with schedules that are possible under the current rule,” NTC chair David Anderson says.
“One of the main challenges relating to determining the fatigue risk associated with scheduled (or unscheduled) work patterns of this nature is a lack of data…”
Anderson’s comments are contained in the NTC’s Counting Time and Residual Fatigue Risk Final report, which outlines the NTC’s data collection plan and the outcome of a 2013 workshop involving industry, police and road agencies discussing the time counting rule.
The South Australian and Victorian police claimed that the time counting rule was allowing a loophole which was being manipulated by some to schedule unsafe shifts of up to 16 hours in a 24 hour period, even when drivers were only meant to have a 12 hour day.
NTC’s Counting Time and Residual Fatigue Risk Final report said:
“Police participants noted that, anecdotally, they are seeing an increase in nose-to-tail schedules,” the report says.
“Participants who did not agree on the risk’s existence or significance were not convinced that there is a clear, identifiable problem based on an unacceptable increase in fatigue risk arising out of nose-to-tail schedules that can and should be addressed.
“They argued that robust evidence demonstrating a safety risk needs to be made available before any further regulatory action occurs in relation to nose-to-tail schedules.”