There have been quite a few reviews and then re-reviews of fatigue rules and how to improve them, perhaps we now have to watch out for fatigue flexibility fatigue? The subject seems to be fraught with hurdles and we could end up with the same old, same old.
The way fatigue rules are decided on and then enforced is an ongoing problem which seems to go around and around every few years. The trucking industry tells everyone the rules are unworkable and are reducing productivity and so a review looks into the rules and changes are proposed to solve the issues. Then the new rules are reviewed by the fatigue experts and the changes reduce flexibility. Then it all starts again.
It’s one of those circular arguments which doesn’t look like actually coming to a satisfactory conclusion any time soon. Each of the many sides to the argument are justified in their positions.
The truck driver by the side of the road, trying to find a place to park the truck so they can get some undisturbed sleep is frustrated at being unable to go another 15 km down the road to a decent parking bay, because they’ve run out time on the book.
A scheduler working for a livestock transport operation finds the journey for a load of cattle takes just a bit too long to get the load from paddock to abattoir. Animal welfare rules mean the the truck will have to stop and be unloaded to give the animals a spell somewhere. The costings for the job get blown out.
A driver on a multi-drop load gets one awkward customer who will make them wait for enough time to put them over on their hours to get back to base. Frustration and an inability to buy enough time to get home by resting up when there is nothing to do are the result.
At the same time those with the job of making fatigue policy work, improving the safety outcomes for everyone on the road and looking after the health and well being of our truckies also have fatigue research telling what works and what is dangerous. They are looking for a way to enable operators to get the job without the kinds of risk which can occur when fatigue issues are ignored.
The fact of the matter is the electronic monitoring of driver behaviour is a fact and will become the norm in the coming years. There will be no way of avoiding detection if a driver breaks the rules. That’s fair enough, break the law and take the consequences.
With this increased ability to see exactly what is going on there has to be a serious quid pro quo. When you know that the driver has to be compliant, then is the time to add flexibility into the rules to enable them to compensate for the times when just another 15 minutes is needed to be safe and comfortable.
We don’t need to be driving round in circles arguing the odds on the current fatigue regime, we need a new regime which balances the certainty of electronic monitoring with the flexibility for drivers to help them cope with real life.