ATA highlights key research areas for fatigue inquiry

Watson says more research is needed into the effects of fatigue rules, asks TWU to rethink opposition

ATA highlights key research areas for fatigue inquiry
ATA chair Noelene Watson welcomes new research into the effects of heavy vehicle fatigue rules.


The controversial national fatigue research project on the effects of heavy vehicle fatigue laws is due to commence, a move the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says will improve safety in the industry.

The Commonwealth-funded Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue Research Project aims to understand the subject of truck driver fatigue and find solutions to this problem.

ATA is a member of the project steering committee, which held its first meeting today.

ATA chair Noelene Watson says the research should also focus on issues such as electronic work diary tolerances, split rest times, and fatigue problems related to driving in regional and remote areas.

"Some state enforcement agencies have called for changes to the rules [Heavy Vehicle National Law fatigue rules], particularly in relation to what are called nose-to-tail schedules," Watson says.

"The ATA also considers that the research needs to cover the quantity and quality of sleep that drivers get during major rest breaks, including the benefits of allowing split rest so drivers can move their trucks to a quieter spot after buying food or having a shower.

"In addition, there needs to be more research into short rest breaks and electronic work diary tolerances, as well as fatigue issues relating to regional and remote operation."

ATA urged the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to rethink its opposition to the research.

The union has not forgiven the federal government for destroying the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and its corresponding order – a system that the union deemed capable of tackling the issue of driver fatigue.

"The federal government tore this tribunal down and now it is spending public money to make it look like it cares about deaths in truck crashes," TWU acting national secretary Michael Kaine says.

"In reality it is starting to look like they realise they got it wrong."

However, Watson says the union must realise that the research will improve safety and help simplify existing rules.

"The TWU has announced that it opposes this research, basically because it does not involve re‑establishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal," she says.

"But fatigue experts agree that more research is needed into the effect of the fatigue rules.

"I call on the TWU to join the ATA in supporting the expert researchers involved in this project."

The federal government has committed more than $800,000 to the project, which includes monitoring a sample of drivers during their real-life work shifts, and then in a laboratory during simulated shifts.

The project is a joint initiative between the Co-operative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, the National Transport Commission (NTC), road agencies, police and the transport industry.

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