IN JANUARY, NTI released an analysis of heavy-vehicle accident data from July to October 2011 highlighting an increase of more than 100% of single-vehicle "run off the road" and "rollover" accidents.
This is a doubling of this type of accident compared to previous data.
This report must ring some very large alarm bells for the industry.
Driver fatigue was identified as one of the two major contributors to single-vehicle heavy-vehicle accidents along with speed, something that most of us already knew.
But why does the industry continue to fall over on the issue of driver fatigue?
Simply, training - or, more precisely, a lack of - in the area of the effects of fatigue and how one can manage it.
Fatigue training is not an area that the industry or even government authorities seem to take seriously enough, even though it is one of the biggest contributors to both heavy and light-vehicle fatalities in Australia.
Using as an example the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services' Heavy Vehicle Driver Handbook, out of 132 pages only two and a half deal with the physical effects of driver fatigue, yet it is these two and a half pages that relate to the most common cause of death and serious injury for heavy-vehicle drivers.
The only dedicated fatigue training for a heavy-vehicle driver occurs if they are undergoing BFM accreditation and this is the TLIF2010A Apply Fatigue Management Strategies module, which replaces the previous TLIF1007C introduced for the BFM scheme in 2008.
The question is, and I have spoken about this before, for the industry and regulators - shouldn't all drivers obtaining their MR licence be required to undergo a formal fatigue training module as part of the licence upgrade? If fatigue is one of the largest killers of heavy-vehicle drivers, then formal training must feature more prominently in licence upgrades.
The effects of fatigue and a lack of understanding can affect a driver's performance and safety at any time, not just when a driver passes the point of 12 hours worked.
The effects of fatigue can present themselves day and night, early or late in a shift.
The most vulnerable to its effects are the inexperienced, who can at times struggle to deal with long work hours, isolation and, of course, the fatigue that are all part of being a heavy-vehicle driver.
The inclusion of a formal fatigue training module would not elevate a driver automatically to the 14-hour work regime of BFM.
This would require the employer to be accredited in the scheme, comply to set standards as well as the driver undertaking accreditation and training.
But in what form should fatigue training for licence upgrades take?
Having done fatigue training in both the classroom (TFMS) and online (BFM) environments, I found the classroom to be the most informative, but for cost and ease of access, the online training format definitely has its benefits.
Should training consist of the TLIF2010A module, upgrading for drivers into the BFM scheme later becomes only a matter of a refresher course and this ensures training remains standard across the board?
Some operators have identified the risk of driver fatigue to their business and have implemented a "midnight policy", which requires all their drivers to stop work and start their seven-hour rest break at or before midnight unless scheduling or other reasons require the driver to work past midnight.
This is, of course, not suitable for all operators, but these companies are taking the issue of driver fatigue seriously, implementing strategies to ensure drivers are able to achieve quality rest every night and are off the road during the high-risk period of midnight to dawn.
Why do I continue to hear stories of drivers failing to adhere to their employers' policies? Sometimes it takes a while to embrace change, even if it is for our own good.