THE results are in and they are not good.
In the most recent industry intelligence from the ongoing survey made by NTI, it was found that 21.4% of serious crashes were caused by inappropriate speed for the conditions and 12.2% of serious crashes were fatigue related.
This 12.2% is the worst result since 2007, so fatigue-related crashes are not being reduced in number in spite of the heavy enforcement of compliance with fatigue management in the eastern states.
Looking at the NTI figures, fatigue-related incidents can be further analysed so that 86% of these truck crashes occurred on highways, with the highest incidence occurring between midnight and 6am.
This is four to five times higher than at other times of the day.
In many ways these results show that current fatigue-related regimes are not working, certainly not improving.
The ongoing debate about logbook compliance through the work diaries system compared to more flexible systems in place in those jurisdictions that have not signed up to the Heavy Vehicle National Law: Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
In a poll conducted in this publication some months ago, 97% of more than a thousand respondents in Queensland were in favour of following the WA and NT regimes.
As informal as our poll was, surely the bureaucrats must consider the question, with increasing serious crashes caused by fatigue on one hand and an all but unanimous call from people on the road asking for a change system on the other.
In a discussion that Big Rigs had with National Heavy Vehicle Regulator chief executive Sal Petroccitto, the NHVR boss believes the flexibility that is found in the systems in WA and the NT can be mirrored under the advanced fatigue management now available to some operators working in the jurisdiction signed up to the Heavy Vehicle National Law.
There seem to be two directions taken towards achieving better fatigue management.
The first is by increased enforced compliance using work diaries, electronic work diaries, increased prescribed legislation, devices that can read fatigue in a driver's eyes and the roadside tests for fatigue advocated by Victorian academic Mark Howard.
Flexibility seems to be the biggest concern with drivers, a majority saying the work diary system runs against their natural biorhythms.
Mr Petroccitto said that AFM gives this flexibility, similar to WA and the NT.
In the Northern Territory, as we have discussed many times before, some of the bigger fleets have made it a standard rule that wheels don't turn between midnight and 6 AM, reflecting the danger time identified in the latest NTI figures.
Would this system work nationwide?
In an age of refrigerated freight, fruit and produce may take a little longer to get to market but as livestock producers in the Northern Territory got used to be a cattle standing in a non-moving truck for six hours at night, so to consumers would probably accept slightly longer delivery times with fresh produce.
The big issue is where to put the trucks if such a system was put in place. Even with the far lower number of trucks in the Northern Territory, the parking bays fill up after midnight.
With the much more dense traffic on Southern highways there are not enough parking facilities for this to happen, and even on the shorter linehaul runs such as the Hume, daylight running would cause havoc on these main highways.
Gary Mahon CEO of the Queensland Trucking Association chief executive Gary Mahon is calling for radical and disruptive thinking on how to approach legislation and the ensuring compliance and enforcement regulations. His point is that a whole new mindset is needed to approach the problem.
Already drivers are being monitored minute by minute in telematic systems used by most larger fleets. We already have a technology-based environment that could allow huge flexibility while maintaining close monitoring so that as long as a driver drives within prescribed hours, he or she can drive to his/her timetable.
Mr Mahon says a new mindset is needed and a shift away from a driver needing to understand 1600 pages of legislation that is growing year by year under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, a simpler more flexible system.
It can be done, all we need is the political will.