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A discussion paper released today by the National Transport Commission (NTC) proposes agreed terminology, systems and processes that will enable a new framework to support comparable and accessible data across industry, governments and enforcement agencies.

Views sought on a new framework for fatigue research

21 August 2015

Australians have been asked for their views on how to collect better information to inform improvements to heavy vehicle driver fatigue laws.

A discussion paper released today by the National Transport Commission (NTC), proposes an agreed terminology, systems and processes that will enable a new framework to support comparable and accessible data across industry, governments and enforcement agencies.

Chief Executive of the NTC Paul Retter said only when all the evidence was on the table would it be possible to determine whether the current regulations were appropriate.

“This project won’t be proposing changes to Australia’s fatigue laws, but it will ensure that we have consistent and more accurate data about how fatigue affects drivers and the safety of our nation’s roads,” Mr Retter said.

“We know that drowsy drivers are more likely to crash. Finding the best option to prevent these crashes relies on us developing a framework that may be used to inform changes to policy settings and amendments to fatigue laws.”

The Heavy Vehicle National Law has prescriptive work and rest hour rules, in addition to chain of responsibility obligations and an overarching duty not to drive while impaired by fatigue.

“At the moment there is no simple test for driver alertness like there is for alcohol or speed, because fatigue levels are relatively difficult to establish and measure. In the future new technologies may be able to tell drivers whether they are in a fit condition to drive. The challenge is to collect enough robust evidence about what fatigue level should be considered safe,” Mr Retter said.

“We know that hours of work are not the only cause of fatigue. Crash data indicates that other factors, such as times of travel, and quality and quantity of sleep also impact on driver fatigue.

“Collecting information after a crash has occurred can only tell us what didn’t work. What we need is information about everyday operations and practices that can tell us what keeps drivers safe. This will support any future improvements to the law.

“This is an opportunity for transport operators and drivers to demonstrate real life practices that help drivers do their jobs and keep safe.”

A copy of the NTC’s discussion paper is available here and submissions can be lodged between now and Friday, 16 October 2015.

Last Updated: 18/11/2016