New driver fatigue research to centre on real-life operations

The National Transport Commission's latest report on heavy vehicle driver fatigue has recommended four new projects that focus on researching drivers in real-life situations and using nationally consistent information collection and analysis.

Recent National Transport Insurance data has revealed heavy vehicle driver fatigue remains a growing problem. In 2015, National Transport Insurance found fatigue was the main factor in 12.8 per cent of road accidents throughout Australia – the highest it has been since 2007. Out of the states and territories, Western Australia had the largest amount of heavy vehicle crashes caused by driver fatigue.

Although the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) was able to determine heavy vehicles were involved in 220 road fatalities in 2014 – the impact of fatigue on these fatalities is unknown.

Science and Fatigue

Driver alertness is influenced by many factors which are difficult to regulate through policy such as hours worked, time of day and period between sleeps. It is now thought sleep quality is especially important.

Current rest and work regulations are based on the simple assumption that the longer a driver works, the more fatigued he or she becomes.

However, scientific evidence exists that indicates driver alertness is dependent on the amount of sleep obtained and the circadian phase (sleep quality). It is believed it is the interaction of these two primary factors that impacts driver performance and road safety outcomes.

Scientific evidence also shows a driver's physical and mental health, and external stressors such as drug taking, can affect fatigue.

National Heavy Vehicle Fatigue Data Framework Projects

According to the National Transport Commission's Heavy vehicle driver fatigue data report, reforms are needed but current information is insufficient to develop new policies.

Additionally, gathering data and analysis on fatigue differs across Australia's states and territories, inhibiting consistent results.

After consulting industry stakeholders, the report has recommended gathering information in four key project areas. It is anticipated this will assist with more accurate policy-making in the heavy vehicle industry.

At the core of the research is gathering real-life operational data on:

1. Evaluation of existing laws and the impact they have on mitigating fatigue
2. Developing consistent fatigue measurements and definitions throughout Australia
3. Analysing de-identified commercial data for its impact on fatigue regulations and frequency
4. Review road agencies' ability to link crash data to driver accreditation

"We know that fatigue is a major contributor to crashes but without more rigorous data, we won't know what reforms will reduce the problem and make Australia's roads safer for everyone," National Transport Commission chief executive officer Paul Retter said.

The Alertness Safety and Productivity Cooperative Research Centre will conduct the research on these four key project within laboratory and field environments.

Research will also include examining the accuracy of existing fatigue monitoring technology.

On completion of these projects, the National Transport Commission hopes to have a better understanding of the impact of heavy vehicle driver fatigue on road crashes.

National Heavy Haulage is a safety conscious heavy haulage provider to Australia's mining and construction sectors. We remain up-to-date with all industry regulations, especially, fatigue management. If you require the services of a quality, safe and cost-effective heavy haulage company, contact us today: 1300 79 22 4

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