Recently, QTA CEO, Gary Mahon wrote an article that was a critical analysis of fatigue laws for our members that has been widely circulated and published in a number of media articles.
The purpose of this article was to reinforce how important a fresh eyed and independent review of our fatigue law is. We need to move with the times and adopt technology, science and accreditation schemes to ensure legislation is fit for purpose. After 80 years, the Roadside Administration Test has had its day.
Today I am writing about some refreshing research from the USA that has broken new ground and given us a road safety breakthrough on fatigue management in heavy vehicles.
Lack of rest areas increase fatigue risk seven-fold
Article published by Big Rigs Newspaper
Over the last 25 years researchers have developed a variety of technologies to detect and address driver fatigue. If these improvements had been included in our legislation heavy vehicle drivers would have the flexibility to structure their day in the safest way. The Industry isn’t calling for more hours but rather some discretion as to the way they are able to plan their day effectively, using available science and technology. The idea that we all cope with fatigue differently is not new, but the prescription in the HVNL allows no flexibility or variation for human factors. This is why we’re calling for a new approach. The 80 year old model badly needs an overhaul, and needs to be modernised with the new learnings research is providing.
Just last year we saw some new thinking and refreshing ideas from a ground-breaking study done in the USA, a country with similar industry operations and issues of geographical scale and distance.
In November 2017 University of Kentucky reported on a nine-year study showing that the availability of rest areas reduces the likelihood of fatigue related crashes for commercial drivers. The research into at-fault heavy vehicle crashes showed that the further a truck driver got from a rest stop, the more likely a crash was to be fatigue related. When rest options were between 32 and 64 kilometres away, the risk of being involved in a fatigue related crash more than doubled. Beyond 64 kilometres from a rest area, truck drivers were almost SEVEN TIMES more likely to have a fatigue related crash.
There was even more evidence of this when the researchers looked at the types of roads where truck drivers were at fault in fatigue related crashes. Crashes were much more likely to occur on roads with fewer places to stop a heavy vehicle. Crashes were less likely on interstates where road authorities had provided more truck stops and rest areas.
These alarming results led the researchers to recommend road authorities increase the number of rest areas for trucks on Kentucky’s interstates and high-volume roads. Workplace health and safety groups have embraced the results and will no doubt use these for future risk management and planning activities. Road authorities will also need to sit up and take notice, because US lawyers and attorneys quickly picked up the message, and the risk of litigation is real. A quick google search showed over a dozen different US law firms also reporting on the outcomes of the study, many asking drivers to contact them if they had been in a fatigue related crash.
As an industry we welcome the foresight of these US researchers to explore different aspects of fatigue in heavy vehicle drivers and the safety on our roads. It’s hard to ignore the findings from this study, that if rest areas are spaced more than 64km apart the likelihood of a fatigue related heavy vehicle crash increases seven fold. Therefore in our future fatigue legislation, we not only need science and technology to be the key driver but also a timely investment strategy in well-spaced and suitable rest areas. This will be a big step in the development of an integrated road safety system that is as safe as we can make it.