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Law reform can reduce fatigue related heavy vehicle crashes

Tuesday, 3 September, 2019 - 14:30
Policy & legislation
National News

New heavy vehicle laws should allow operators with good fatigue safety systems more flexibility to manage fatigue risks, according to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) submission to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review.

The submission to the HVNL review, which is being conducted by the National Transport Commission, suggested better safety systems would reduce fatigue related crashes, said NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto.

“Operators tell us reforms to fatigue laws are some of the most important to be considered as part of the review of the HVNL,” Petroccitto said.

“Last month we met with more than 40 operators and industry representatives at our second fatigue safety forum in Sydney and overwhelmingly operators agreed on the need for change to the current framework and culture.

“Drivers tell us they feel like they are being hunted for minor administrative errors.

“The NHVR believes that prescriptive work and rest hours should still play a role in providing a minimum ‘safe harbour’ for drivers, but that a multi-tiered approach to fatigue risk management would allow flexibility for operators who take up additional, new or innovative safety practices.”

The NHVR responded to the issues paper Effective Fatigue Management – one-of-eight issues papers released as part the review of the HVNL.

According to the paper, the current laws reduced fatigue-related crashes between 2003 and 2009, however the rate of heavy vehicle crashes caused by driver fatigue has been relatively stable between 2009 and 2017.

The paper also said those within industry capable of demonstrating effective driver fatigue risk management should face minimal interference from prescriptive requirements, whereas those less capable in fatigue risk management should face more prescriptive requirements to supplement any shortfalls.

The NHVR response recommends the following amendments to the HVNL:

  • Adopt fatigue risk management as the primary fatigue safety object of the law
  • Introduce a rule development power to enable the Regulator to develop standards for fatigue risk management, work and rest hours, record keeping and alternative means of compliance
  • Relocate prescriptive standards for work and rest limits and record keeping into legally binding subordinate standards
  • Revise retained provisions to correct errors and inconsistencies in law
  • Introduce a power for no-fault investigations and reporting for building knowledge on the antecedents of heavy vehicle crashes caused by driver fatigue.