NHVR in fatigue policy consultations after tech findings

Study finds distraction events outnumbered fatigue events by four to one

NHVR in fatigue policy consultations after tech findings
Andreas Blahous


Fatigue detection technology is the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR’s) next focus in its ongoing deep dive into ways to combat a scourge of the trucking industry.

The regulator is to consult with industry on what safety and productivity role the technology can and does play.

According to the NHVR, the latest research it commissioned by shows there are considerable safety and productivity benefits for heavy vehicle businesses using technology to monitor fatigue and distraction.

The move follows an earlier finding on the performance of Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) in boosting safety cultures and productivity.

Both are part of a five-phase Fatigue Monitoring Trial to gain a greater understanding of the characteristics, performance and utilisation of a range of fatigue and distraction detection technologies (FDDTs) currently used in the heavy vehicle industry.

The trial aims to assess:

  • whether the technology is capable of correctly identifying unsafe driving behaviours attributable to fatigue and/or distraction within the heavy vehicle industry
  • the potential capability of such technologies to help reduce fatigue and distraction related events and thus improve safety outcomes within the heavy vehicle industry regulatory environment
  • if appropriate, how best to encourage industry uptake of such technology. 

Read about the NHVR report on the benefits of AFM, here

"This really has the potential to be a game changer and we will work towards a collaborative approach to adopting the new technology that includes drivers and management," NHVR fatigue specialist Andreas Blahous says.

The NHVR commissioned independent consultants from HGH Consulting and CQ University, including fatigue specialist Dr Drew Dawson, along with Andrew Higginson and Dr Madeline Sprajcer, to undertake the study, following feedback from operators at the inaugural NHVR Fatigue Safety Summit in 2018.

The study included information from 80 transport and bus company employees – including drivers, owners, schedulers and safety staff – from 12 road freight and bus companies.

Interviews were also conducted with eight suppliers involved in developing, manufacturing or selling safety equipment.

"The study found that the use of technology significantly reduced the frequency of fatigue and distraction events and ‘will enable drivers and operators to better identify and address unsafe driving behaviours prior to accidents’," Blahous says.

"According to the research, the technology showed that distraction events outnumbered fatigue events by four to one."

The phase two conclusions are headed by a response revealing the near-unanimous revealing belief that the effective use of fatigue and distraction detection technology will profoundly reduce the frequency of fatigue and distraction events while driving.

Rflected strongly is recognition that "genuine partnership" between governments and industry to encourage and support the widespread adoption of fatigue and distraction detection technologies is crucial.

FDDTs are seen as highly effective in stepping beyond legacy mandated approaches to fatigue management that unnecessarily compromise operational efficiency or produce "paradoxical and/or perverse safety outcomes as can sometimes be the case under the current highly prescriptive ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing fatigue under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL)".

Also high on the responders’ agendas is driver fitness for duty (FFD) as a key strategy to help reduce fatigue related accidents.

The Research Report: Phase 2 Fatigue and Distraction Detection Technology Use in the Australian Road Freight Transport Sector can be found here.


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