ATA seeks change in regulatory handling of fatigue

Overhauled enforcement one of several sought for NHVR safety strategy

ATA seeks change in regulatory handling of fatigue
The ATA wants changes to enforcement approaches for fatigue


The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) should change its approach to fatigue enforcement as a key part of its next safety strategy, Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Andrew McKellar says.

The call comes as ATA releases its submission to the NHVR on its draft 2021-2025 heavy vehicle safety strategy. 

"The ATA was very pleased to see that the draft emphasises the need to build a positive safety culture in the industry," McKellar says. 

"The key to doing this is fairness.

"People are not going to report safety issues if they feel they will be unfairly blamed or issued with an infringement notice." 

Read how the NHVR is to probing a fatigue technology framework, here

The national peak body wants the NHVR to press governments to reduce fines for minor paperwork offences and change its enforcement approach, pointing out that the national truck driver work diary includes 27 pages of instructions. 

"It is policed with zero tolerance for trivial mistakes, such as failing to draw vertical lines between work and rest periods or failing to sign each page," McKellar says. 

"Obsessing over missing signatures and minor errors does not make the roads safer. It makes truck driving a maze of random traps, with the ever-present possibility of punitive fines. 

"The approach we are recommending is common sense. It is also supported by safety research across industries as varied as offshore oil production, aerospace and medicine. Safety scientists even have a term for what we need. It’s called a ‘just culture.’ 

"The NHVR has previously committed to this just culture approach. It should now advocate for amendments to the HVNL and make changes to its policies to reinforce it."  

The submission calls on the NHVR to recognise the safety benefits of increasing the use of high productivity freight vehicles. 

"High productivity freight vehicles improve safety because they reduce the number of trucks on the road," McKellar says.

"There is simply less potential for crashes. 

"For example, you need 42 standard semi-trailers to move 1,000 tonnes of freight.

"Only 21 PBS 30 metre A-doubles would be needed to move the same amount. 

"In addition, high productivity freight vehicles are likely to have the latest safety technology; their drivers are typically more experienced and, depending on the vehicle, may need to hold a higher class of licence."

While seeing progress on a stronger Chain of Responsibility (COR) focus, building positive safety cultures in organisations, and the removal of "the content relating to the social model of road safety", the ATA seeks other amendments.

These include:

  • more detail on the 50 per cent per capita fatality rate and 30 per cent per capita serious injury rate through sub-targets
  • a voluntary self-reporting system comparable to the current aviation scheme
  • expediting safety technology uptake while addressing privacy concerns
  • identifying potential changes to the in-service vehicle standards and the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual.

The full submission can be found here.


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