Driver fatigue management is a serious consideration for all fleet managers. Statistics alone are enough to make you sit up and listen. But the law in Australia is also unequivocal: as fleet managers, you have a responsibility to protect your drivers, and other road users, from the risks of driver fatigue. Driver Safety is your responsibility.
Why Do Fleets Need Driver Fatigue Management?
If a driver falls asleep at the wheel, for a mere 4 seconds, whilst travelling at 100 km/hr, then the vehicle will travel a further 111 metres without a driver in control. The Transport Accident Commission of Victoria state that fatigue is a major cause of crashes in Victoria resulting in approximately 50 deaths per year, and a further approximately 300 serious injuries.
Nationally, statistics vary, but driver fatigue is a major cause of road fatalities and serious injuries nationwide. Coronial and Police citations report fatigue, even in its narrowest of descriptions, as occurring in about 5% of all crashes (Haworth and Rechnitzer 1993). The Australian Transport Council, now the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure, states this figure to be much higher, up to 30%, when you include Road Traffic Accidents that were caused by a loss of concentration.
Facts About Driver Fatigue
Fatigue impairs judgement, and this is where the inherent risk lies. As a Fleet Manager responsible for Driver Risk Management, you need to be aware of the following:
- Night Time Driving is more dangerous– therefore part of driver fatigue management should include a fleet driver management approach to night-time shift driving.
- Rural Areas are at the most at risk for accidents caused by fatigue – this is likely to be due to higher speed restrictions in rural areas combined with fewer requirements for evasive action, to jog the attention.
- Driving Alone is a greater risk – therefore driver health and safety needs to combat and minimise this.
- Driving in commercial vehicles puts the driver at greater risk of fatigue – therefore, mobile workforce management is required to mitigate this, especially with truck fleets and delivery services.
- Further risk factors include driving after taking medication, coming home from a social event, and driving during holiday periods such as Christmas.
Commercial Driver Fatigue Management
For Fleet Managers responsible for commercial driver fatigue management, it’s not simply a matter of ethics and person-to-person responsibility. In Australian Law, driver fatigue is taken seriously, particularly heavy vehicle driver fatigue management and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) fatigue concerns.
Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue Management – Driver Safety & Australian Law
The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) sets businesses that are fleet operated three options to manage driver fatigue:
- Standard Hours –
Standard hours are very basic form of driver fatigue management. In brief, these are the maximum amount of work hours with the minimum number of rest hours allowed by the HVNL for all drivers who are not currently working under a National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) accreditation or for those businesses that are exempt.
- Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) –
Drivers that operate within the NHVAS with Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) are allowed to operate under more flexible work and rest hours compared to Standard Hours. In brief, this allows for drivers to work up to 14 hours in a 24-hour period. As a result, BFM allows fleet managers to take greater control over when drivers can and cannot so long as driver fatigue and the risks associated with driving and rest periods are properly managed.
- Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) –
Those operating under NHVAS with Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) enables fleet managers to adopt even more control and employ a risk management approach that goes beyond just determining work and rest hours, but provides greater flexibility in return for the fleet manager offering greater accountability for driver fatigue management and the associated risks.
Beyond and within this, the person responsible for commercial fleet management is required to:
- Make sure that CMV’s are operated in accordance with the Commercial Vehicle Operating standard
- Ascertain and ensure you have documentation certifying each and every driver as fit to drive a CMV, by an appropriate medical practitioner
- Make sure their business has a fatigue management plan in place which is applicable to each and every CMV driver
- Ensure accurate record keeping in accordance with the appropriate regulations for driving commercial vehicles.
In addition to the above, Driver Fatigue Management includes responsibilities under the Occupational Safety & Health Act 1984 and the Occupational Safety & Health Regulations 1996. Under these regulations, drivers must have adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure they are safe on the job – in their case, on the roads. For further information, see this Code of Practice for Fatigue Management for Commercial Drivers, issued by the Western Australia Government.
Driver Tips for Combating Fatigue
Basic common sense is the grounding to ensure driver safety as part of driver fatigue management. To help you manage driver fatigue follow these tips:
- Ensure drivers have had a good night’s sleep
- They should avoid driving at night when the body will naturally want to sleep
- Take frequent breaks: for every 2-3 hours driving there should be a break for 20 minutes.
- Use rest areas for a nap if tired
- Do not drive under the influence of medication that may cause drowsiness
- Train drivers to be able to identify the early signs of fatigue
- For a quick, short-term fix, caffeine can help
Driver Safety Training
In order to comply with the Law, it is therefore imperative to undertake driver safety training to ensure that all your drivers, of either heavy vehicles, or commercial vehicles, know how to keep themselves and other road users safe from the effects of fatigue. There are a wide range of courses available across Australia undertaking driver safety training, for example, Driver Safety is a good first port of call.
Driver Risk Management
For fleet managers, commercial driver fatigue management can utilise technology to help to both keep your employees safe, but also to comply with the Law. Driver Health and Safety can be monitored and acted upon by utilising In Vehicle Driver Monitoring Systems (IVMS), often referred to as fleet management software. In particular, sophisticated systems use driver attention monitors that use sensors to detect a driver’s attentiveness using eye-tracking. Should a driver’s attention fade, the device flashes lights and makes a warning sound and in some cases can apply the brakes.
In addition, tools at the fingertips of all fleet managers include vehicle GPS trackers. These devices are often combined with fleet management software to create driver monitoring systems and can monitor and report on driver behaviour such as speeding, aggressive driving and braking, and even harsh cornering. This enables fleet managers to adequately train employees away from dangerous driving behaviour.
Vehicle Communication Systems
The main type of vehicle communication systems are fleet management systems. As previously mentioned, these systems allow communication both between the drivers and your business hub and/or fleet manager. In essence, these systems enable businesses to use data collected from a driver GPS tracking system and communicate directly with the driver in real time to ensure appropriate driving action is taken, should fatigue be presenting itself as a concern.
Vehicle to Vehicle Communication
Additionally, some advanced systems allow for vehicle to vehicle communication. This technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other and alert drivers to dangers or hazards on the road ahead.
Fleet Driver Fatigue Management Case Studies
The following case studies outline how three different fleet operated businesses introduced driver monitoring systems and GPS tracking through fleet management software to improve their driver fatigue management and overall driver safety.
Significant positive effects on driver safety
Stonestreets Coaches provide specialised vehicles for tours, operating from their base in Queensland. They employ approximately 300 staff and have a large fleet, mainly of buses. Their challenge was to ensure legal compliance, make sure their drivers were well-trained, but also maintaining their competitive edge. They chose Navman Wireless as a GPS solution. Following the installation of the fleet management software they were able to effectively review fatigue management on an individual driver basis daily, weekly or monthly, as required. They used the Driver Scorecard function to help drivers manage their compliance with fatigue requirements, which has had a significantly positive effect on driver safety.
Checking employee working hours against driver behaviour
Killard Excavation are a multinational excavation and pipe laying company. They introduced the Navman Wireless driver tracking system to get a real-time understanding on how their drivers behave on the roads, as well as giving them a platform against which to check employee working hours.
Driver safety improved and constant communication in remote regions
Roma Transport, a supplier of transport services to the Oil and Gas industry from their hub in Queensland, required a system that allowed constant connectivity and communications with their drivers in remote regions. They also needed to be able to conduct driver behaviour tracking in order to improve driver safety. After employing the fleet management system Roma Transport were able to monitor a range of driver behaviours including how fast the vehicles are travelling, harsh braking, whether seat belts are used and when cruise control is utilised. Driver safety was improved and constant communication with drivers was achieved.
Driver Fatigue Management must be taken seriously by all fleet managers in Australia, and by using fleet management systems combined with driver communication, it is possible to make this easier.