“Through our Fatigue Choices campaign we have asked operators to come in and have a chat with our safety team,” says Andreas Blahous, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator Senior Specialist (Fatigue Management). “They know their businesses and drivers. We ask them to tell us what they think is going on and if there is anything which they want to do which they can’t do under the current rules. Then we can have a conversation about those risks and how they can manage those risks.
“If an operator wants to do something which they can’t at the moment, they know what the risks are and could manage those in a way to make the situation safer. We will look at those ideas and work out a way to make those ideas feasible. It might be AFM, as I think AFM is, currently, the only system available
Any new system will require the driver and operator to think about how they are going to manage things. It will not be a a matter of simply making sure the book looks right, it will be a matter of managing the situation to ensure reduced risk from fatigue.
“The more the operator invests into fatigue management the more flexibility they will be able to access,” says Andreas. “Anyone willing to take on the job of the full investigation of risk, we should be able to give them flexibility. There should be the opportunity for operators to tell us how they want to do things differently.
“There needs to be some kind of an arrangement where we as a regulator can talk to an operator who has something we have never heard of before. I want them to be able to come to us and say how they want to do something differently. It may have the same safety outcome we are looking for, but we had not thought of it. We may be able to approve of this and allow it.”
Build the Framework
The National Transport Commission is wanting build the basic principle about fatigue management into the law with a mechanism to allow fatigue management to develop alongside this fast moving and flexible trucking industry. Using data gathered in the Fatigue Choices campaign, it will be looking to outline the overall principles of fatigue management and set it up to enable the NHVR to work with industry to get safety outcomes.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution with prescriptive rules which will suit everyone working in trucking. There just needs to be a framework, where the more the operator wants to invest in fatigue management the more flexibility they can access.
There will always be a place for a simple to use and understand prescriptive, probably not far away from the current Standard Fatigue Management scheme. This can function as a fall-back position for anyone operating a truck.
No matter what the Heavy Vehicle National Law finally looks like, the NHVR will be expending a lot of effort into changing the discussion so that NHVR and the trucking industry are working on a fatigue strategy with common safety objective.
Potentially, there are some questions about how operators provide a level of assurance that what is required to be done is actually being done. How does the enforcement officer at a roadside check know about these agreements and how can they check the operator is complying?
The process will also need to allow the NHVR to approve of something completely out of the box. It should become possible to focus more on the fatigue impairment protection task. There are ways of testing the driver rather than checking paper work.
The authorities need to work to maintain a positive relationship with the trucking industry. Regulators need to be monitoring the safety of the system as a whole. Then if something goes wrong, and if there is a change the fatigue regime is ready to respond. There shouldn’t be a need to wait for a review, the NHVR could intervene where it’s appropriate.