UNTIL recently, not a lot has been known about how the current Heavy Vehicle National Law impacts truckies, especially when it comes to fatigue and related road safety risks.
But now, thanks to a study being run by The Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC) and the National Transport Commission, those impacts are being investigated.
And if the law is not benefiting drivers, then the independent experts conducting the study can say exactly that.
Dr Tracey Sletten, from Monash University and the Alertness CRC, told Big Rigs that they could make a positive change in the industry by putting forward exactly what the current scenario was and make recommendations.
She said the two-year study, which began in December last year, asked drivers to monitor their sleep, alertness and driving for a short period of time to look at the impacts of different shifts and the different times drivers were working and the impact that had on their alertness.
"The aim moving forward is to try and improve any issues that we may find in the current legislation," Dr Sletten said.
Drivers participating in the study are asked to keep about a month's worth of records of how much sleep and the quality of that sleep while they are working.
Quality of sleep is monitored by a wrist activity monitor and other devices, such as glasses or frames of glasses, monitor eye blinks and movements to give an indication of alertness at different times and on different shifts.
"It gives us a nice picture of how people are sleeping, how their alertness is impacted by that and it's a nice way of validating alertness technologies and how they can be used more and more effectively in the industry so drivers can monitor themselves and make positive change in the industry," she said.
Dr Sletten said while there had been previous studies done, the Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue research project was the biggest that had been undertaken.
"It's an opportunity for drivers to provide data that backs up how they're feeling in their jobs on a day-to-day basis," she said.
"A lot of individual drivers we've spoken to have been very helpful in sharing their own experiences and problem areas, which gives us a good indication of which areas to look into.
"Some of them have quite a reasonable idea of when they're feeling sleepy or like they can continue driving so I think they really do want some assistance as to having these laws looked at.
"Just having a better understanding for when people are feeling better and more capable of driving than at other times (so) that we can actually help to support what the people are feeling day-to-day."
Data collection was still ongoing, Dr Sletten said, and analysis would occur during the last six months of the study.
If you'd like to take part in the study, or want to find out more about it...
- Individual drivers can contact the HVDF research team on 0401 102 224 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Operators can contact Dr Tracey Sletten on (03) 9902 0734 or email@example.com