How to implement a healthy driver fatigue monitoring policy
By David Eason
There is no denying that driver fatigue and the consequences of driving drowsy are serious issues.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that driving fatigued can have the same dangerous outcomes as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, with both conditions being associated with reduced alertness and attentiveness, slower reaction times and impaired decision-making abilities(1)(2).
In light of this, eliminating or minimising driver fatigue and its related risks is a high priority for many bus companies.
The issue itself is the heart of the problem. However, if bus operators lack a readily accessible driver fatigue policy for staff members and an easy-to-implement process for monitoring and flagging breaches of policy, they risk being held legally liable for any consequences that result from allowing operations to continue under dangerous conditions.
While the driver is expected to comply with policy, the operator also has a duty of care to produce a safe work roster that gives employees adequate time to sleep, recover and perform their social and domestic responsibilities(3).
Governments and industry bodies recognise that businesses have a responsibility to systematically manage their fatigue risk in order to effectively supervise their drivers, with enforcement, compliance regulations, standards and reviews by the authorities intended to ensure safe operations(1).
Fatigue is one of the key areas that is in the spotlight and targeted for implemented change over the coming years(1).
Historically, Australian authorities have focused mainly on the trucking industry when it comes to driver fatigue monitoring. However, with trucking having been under the microscope for some time, industry regulators are now turning their attention to bus operators. As per the National Heavy Vehicle Register (NHVR), these are the standard work and rest hourly requirements for drivers operating a bus or a coach:
How does your company stack up against these requirements today?
It is not uncommon in the transportation industry, where there is ongoing pressure to perform to schedules, for people to work within a culture of ‘powering through’(3). Are your operations currently ensuring that there is adequate policing of fatigue management regulations?
While the laws and regulations around heavy vehicle driver fatigue are often complex and difficult to comply with(4), it doesn’t have to be hard for your company.
By having a policy in place and using an integrated system to help automate the monitoring and regulating of driver shifts, you can place more focus on managing the causes of driver fatigue, which are often overlooked(4).
Empirical evidence suggests that drivers perceive support from management as playing a key role in them taking positive actions towards preventing driver fatigue(5). This is further supported by the observation of decreased reported fatigue in depots where positive management relationships were in place.
This makes the process of being able to manage compliance and act accordingly easier. It also eliminates any pressure on management to manually keep track of staff compliance with fatigue policies.
Furthermore, an ERP system as your company’s single source of the truth and data repository enhances incident analysis capabilities, as there is the potential to be able to draw correlations between staff behaviour and accidents.
An example of this could be discovering a trend that late driver check-ins coincide with fatigue-related occurrences. Such information could dramatically change your company’s ability to take preemptive action and instill new practices or policies to avoid risky situations.
A bus-specific ERP system allows you to not only meet the requirement of adhering to driver fatigue legislation, but also ensures your company is following industry best practice.
Your company also has the added benefit of being able to build trust with authorities through a well-implemented policy and the ability to produce evidence of your compliance with standards and legislation.
(1) Department of Transport and Main Roads. (2016). Delivering heavy vehicle safety solutions together: Queensland’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Action Plan 2016–18. Retrieved from https://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Safety/Road-safety/Strategy-and-action-plans
(2) Watson, N. F., Morgenthaler, T., Chervin, R., Carden, K., Kirsch, D., … Wise, M. (2015). Confronting drowsy driving: The American academy of sleep medicine perspective. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine , 11(11), 1335–1336. http://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.5200 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4623133/
(3) Australian Transport Safety Bureau. (2017). Fatigue. Retrieved from https://www.atsb.gov.au/safetywatch/sw_fatigue/
(4) National Transport Commission Australia. (2016). Heavy vehicle driver fatigue data: Final report May 2016. Retrieved from http://www.ntc.gov.au/Media/Reports/(792A30B5-8CE0-420A-A8F6-79723FE802F6).pdf
(5) Biggs, H. C., Dingsdag, D. P., & Stenson, N. (2009) Fatigue factors affecting metropolitan bus drivers: A qualitative investigation. Work : A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation, 32(1). pp. 5-10. https://eprints.qut.edu.au/19562/1/19562.pdf
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