A Brief Look At Driver Fatigue Compliance Laws Around The World
Driver fatigue, or drowsy driving, is a major hazard compromising road safety. The main causes of fatigue are straightforward enough—not enough sleep, driving at night, and working or being awake for a long time.
Signs of fatigue include lack of alertness, mistakes, blurred vision, microsleeps and more.
Many people think fatigue is falling asleep at the wheel. However, once a driver falls asleep at the wheel, this is a sign of extreme fatigue. Fatigue can affect a driver’s performance and is dangerous not only to the person operating the vehicle, but to those sharing the road with them. In fact, driver fatigue accounts for 20% of fatal road accidents.
Temporary fatigue management techniques are exactly that: temporary.
These temporary fixes are useful in increasing focus and lessening fatigue, but the effects do not typically last. Such fixes include drinking caffeinated drinks (such as coffee or sports drinks); mental alertness techniques (such as singing to music); getting out of the truck for a walk; and taking a short nap.
The only real cure for fatigue is adequate sleep.
The Heavy Vehicle National Law and Regulations (HVNL) surrounding driver fatigue compliance ensures heavy vehicle drivers are getting the required number of breaks and rests.
These laws apply to fatigue-affected heavy vehicles, which include the vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) over 12 tonnes (including machines or attached implements), and buses with a GVM over 4.5 tonnes fitted to carry more than 12 adults (including the driver).
These laws include the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws (everyone in the supply chain shares responsibility for ensuring HVNL breaches don’t occur) and log book requirements, which require drivers to document work time and rest times. You can find the requirements for breaks and how to count them on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator website.
Rest time is all time that is not work time. There are strict regulations surrounding the amount of rests that must be taken for each period of work.
Australia’s driver fatigue compliance laws are relatively comprehensive. But how do we compare to some other Commonwealth countries?
New Zealand also has their own driver fatigue compliance laws, covered under three different laws and regulations: Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, Land Transport Act 1998 and Chain of Responsibility regulations. However, they do not have one consolidated driver fatigue compliance law like Australia.
New Zealand’s regulations, however, work in similar ways to ours, requiring employers to take on the responsibility of identifying hazards and managing fatigue in their drivers. This includes monitoring and controlling lengths of shifts, rest breaks, days off and implementing logbook entries.
Canada’s fatigue compliance legislations are dependent on state and province; each has laws specifically catered to the different weather conditions or road types. For example, a more snowy province might have stricter fatigue regulations than a province with dry roads.
The Canadian federal government only has authority over carriers that travel across a provincial or international boundary.
Differences and similarities
At first glance, Australia’s driver fatigue compliance laws may come across as relatively more comprehensive, with one consolidated federal-level legislation regulating driver fatigue compliance.
Additionally, Australia has separate regulations for different classes of commercial vehicles; the HVNL is dedicated to heavy vehicle driving. Australia’s main mode of goods delivery is through heavy vehicles, and with a country so large, it’s obvious to see why our expansive HVNL is necessary.
Overall, driver fatigue compliance laws aim to reduce the number of fatigued drivers, and in turn reduce the amount of fatigue-related accidents and issues. It also places responsibility on employers and managers to ensure the driver has access to legally earned rests, which is imperative in making our roads safer for all.