A fatigue expert says Australian fatigue management laws require major change because truckies are working “too long” and “too hard”.
Professor Ann Williamson, fatigue expert has called for a 10 hour daily limit for drivers and she also wants drivers to get longer rest breaks.
Prof. Williamson says a drastic overhaul of our fatigue management laws is necessary. She has called for this to begin with the scrapping of the basic fatigue management (BFM) module which allows 14 hour driving days for truckies.
The professor explained that the community was shocked with the length of time that truck drivers are driving for in a single day. She, together with the community believe truck drivers are being overextended at the detriment of their health and safety. She said their quality of life is also being negatively impacted which is why it’s time to review their driving hours.
“It is time we review what we are allowing these drivers to do,” Williamson, who has been at the forefront of work on fatigue for a number of years, told ATN.
“I can’t see any reason why truck drivers can’t be working similar hours to what you or I work…Certainly eight to 10 hours of work is probably adequate.”
Currently drivers are allowed to work 12 hours in a 24 hour period under the law, this is known as standard hours. Drivers with BFM accreditation are permitted an additional 2 hours.
The law requires drivers to take a 7 hour break after reaching their maximum daily work hours. Professor Williamson said this mandatory rest period should be longer.
She explained that 7 hours wasn’t sufficient enough time for drivers to find a place to park their truck, get something to eat, shower and get ready for bed as well as have sufficient sleep. She went on to explain:
“Only seven hours of break time isn’t enough,”
“I think we need to be looking at something that is realistic that takes into account an hour for an evening meal, half an hour freshening up or whatever, half an hour for breakfast. What are we up to now? We’re up to nine [hours].”
Prof. Williamson believes BFM is a particular problem for permitting 14 hour workdays for up to 6 days in a row. It allows a total of 144 hours of work in a fortnight. Under the contentious system, truck drivers can travel for up to 6 hours before they must take a 15 minute rest break. They are allowed to work a maxium of 84 hours in a single week.
Another concern to Williamson is the number of companies doing BFM.
“It’s very scary to me how many companies and drivers are now doing BFM since 2008,”
“Since it has been allowed, it has really taken the industry by storm. Many, many companies are doing it and it is a serious problem.
“Driving for six hours without a break is just ridiculous. Who does it? And why is it that mere mortals like us are told to take a break every two hours and these guys aren’t?
“It just doesn’t add up. When you start talking about this, it is indefensible that we still do it.”
Professor Williamson has called for the introduction of an advanced fatigue management (AFM)-type approach. This system would allow accredited companies and drivers to develop their own fatigue management systems, adjust driving hours and breaks accordingly.