Jump to content

Industry squabbles over fatigue factor while truckies die


Recommended Posts

Big Rigs  /  February 9, 2017

Right now, as I write these words, there are thousands of truck drivers taking a rest over a steering wheel, stretched out for 20 minutes in a sleeper, driving and looking at the road ahead through tired eyes.

Sure, this is not every truck driver, but right now in a snapshot of time, it represents a fair percentage.

We all have our ways of fighting fatigue... and a fight it is. If we lose, we die.

There are truck loads of experts pontificating on the causal factors of dangerous fatigue, often with little reference to the people with most experience, the people with a long history of driving trucks safely.

The general transport media runs commentary from associations and groups, from people who have a distaste for the smell of diesel rather than embracing it.

There have been many studies, reports, commissions that have looked into deaths on the road with a focus on the part that fatigue plays.

The arguments still go on, commissions are formed, new bodies are established and still the search continues looking for an answer that is often plain to see.

And still drivers are dying on our roads.

The water is muddied because of vested interests and differing points of view stop the realisation of any answers that could have real meaning and save lives on the road.

Transport workers dying in one of the most dangerous occupations in Australia seem to take second place to the arguments and vested interests of the industry's so-called leaders.

NatRoad continues to call for further investigations, and over the past weeks is in a defensive mode apparently concerned by the challenges of the Transport Workers Union, frightened apparently by a push for safer conditions that might cost members a small cut of the profit cake.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is dancing around yet another, and potentially valuable, research project into fatigue as if this has never happened before.

The Federal Government's position is reflected in Kate Carnell's Ombudsman report handed down last September after an inquiry into the RSRO / RSRT debacle.

The Feds vest their interest and position in the National Heavy Vehicle Law legislation even though it has been taken up by only two-thirds of the Australian land mass.

The Transport Workers Union fights for better conditions, which is a good thing, but has what seems to be an obsession on pay rates to drivers and owner-drivers as a fix-all snake oil cure for fatigue.

The tiny membership of the National Road Freighters Association cites the example of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, jurisdictions that have refused to sign up to the National Heavy Vehicle Law.

All these associations, bodies and jurisdictions each have their own take on fatigue and rightfully so.

As the Transport Workers Union points out, a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers handed down 12 months ago found that rules tackling the root causes of risks to safety in trucking, including fatigue, would cut truck crashes by 28 per cent.

The union said the government chooses to ignore its own research to the detriment of every truck driver and every road user in the country.

There is good reason that the NRFA members lean towards the NT and WA, because the legislation in those jurisdictions is not prescriptive.

As a writer and truck driver, I understand this with modest experience of heavy vehicle long haul driving well up into seven figures of kilometres driven.

I have an innate resistance to log books and set driving times.

Is this some DNA aberration being passed down from a convict ancestry or some such thing?

No, I don't think so.

My body tells me when it is tired and I have stayed alive by listening to my body.

Talking to many drivers on the road, I'm not alone with this view.

I don't want to be told that I can drive now, that I must stop now for 15 minutes.

And with the rules in place, owners and operations managers must demand drivers to drive to rules.

There is a body of anecdotal evidence that this prescriptive driving regulation is one of the biggest killers on the road.

The prescriptive regulations could be, well, deregulated.

We live with governments that can deregulate entire industries, dairy and wheat come to mind.

This wouldn't mean the end of regulation, just its prescriptive nature.

There can still be limited driving times in a 24 hour period, in a seven day period ensuring adequate rest time.

Electronic monitoring, in spite of what the Canberra-based associations might suggest is no longer a huge cost, certainly cheaper than draconian log book fines.

Eleven hour or 14 hour driving days exactly as today, but how that driving time is distributed could be up to the individual and the unique circumstances of a human body and psyche.

A driver might grab three hours only a couple of hours after setting out from home.

I know I've done this once or twice, makes the rest of the run a breeze.

The flexibility is a safety measure.

In the Northern Territory many big fleets demand drivers stop between midnight and daylight, livestock fleets included, making use of the most valuable sleep time for the driver - not a stupid idea even if it does clog up the parking bays during that time.

Meanwhile the TWU and NatRoad, NHVR, governments state and federal, ATA and NRFA all ride their particular fatigue ponies making the whole thing a mess and truck drivers still die.

This is a matter of life and death and perhaps it's time for governments and representative bodies to stop and listen to the professionals in the million mile club, they haven't stayed alive because of regulation.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

KSB, you make many valid points! I don't  know about Australia, but one of the biggest problems in many parts of America is finding a place to park! I left the road in 2008, and it only has to be getting worse! Especially in Florida, the east coast and new England to name a few! The hours from midnight to daybreak are the worst statistically, because of your " biological clock". I don't care how many hours of sleep you get before midnight, the average person will tend to "nod off "in the wee hours of the morning! And as you suggest, each person knows when they could benefit from a couple of hours of sleep! I remember when the ATA and the insurance lobby who didn't always agree on procedure were spending millions to come up with the " new hours of service" which when finally passed didn't do one thing to alleviate the problem! I am the last, I repeat, the last person to advocate in the cab technology to tell a driver when he is too sleepy to drive!, but the technology was perfected several years ago! It couldn't be much worse than paper or electronic logs! I suspect the carriers don't really WANT the the drivers to stop driving even if they are becoming fatigued! As they are thinking about profits!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...