Regulator sees need for fatigue management flexibility

Operator feedback points to administrative pedantry of current system

Regulator sees need for fatigue management flexibility
Sal Petroccitto


A prescriptive element combined with greater operator flexibility underscores the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR’s) fatigue management submission to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review.

It contends any new laws should allow operators with good fatigue safety systems more flexibility to manage their own fatigue risks.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto says its submission to the National Transport Commission (NTC) suggests better safety systems, rather than relying on simply measuring work and rest hours, would reduce fatigue-related crashes.

"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 says.

"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."

NatRoad has called for an overhaul to the current 'dysfunctional' system

The NHVR pinpoints the exerpt from the NTC’s Effective Fatigue Management issues paper which notes current laws have 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".

"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," it emphasises.

The NHVR’s recommended amendments to the HVNL include:

  • 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.


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