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CoR: Managing Fatigue on Australian Roads

By Jesse KeremaDigital Marketing Manager
Published on August 1, 2019

Driver fatigue is a serious issue in Australia. 

Chain of Responsibility was introduced into Australia with the aim of combating driver fatigue for truck drivers, among other common road crash causes. It states that in the event of a crash, the truck driver may not be at fault. Due to external factors being influenced by the company of which the truck driver is working.

For example, one of these external factors could be delivery times that apply pressure to the truck driver to drive for long hours. 

This post will explore the other factors of driver fatigue and how it can be managed.

Why drivers operate vehicles while fatigued in Australia

Powerful economic & social forces (like the increased value of time in recent years) influence and control the normative pattern of work of commercial drivers. Working time is, after all, one of the fundamental economic inputs to production and transport.

In order to promote logistics safety and enhance safe business practices – the government set out a set of guidelines known as the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) rules that support road transport law. 

The guidelines are intended to help drivers, employers, as well as users and customers of road transport to manage heavy vehicle driver fatigue through the creation of a fatigue-management system.

This implies that effective management should not to be solely the duty of the driver. Instead, corporate entities,  directors/managers,  partners, employees and all parties in the supply chain have a  role in ensuring that any risks associated with fatigue are eliminated through responsible management of deliveries.  

What are the signs of driver fatigue?

Fatigue is the feeling of being tired, drained or exhausted.

The signs of fatigue include:

Loss of alertness - You can’t respond to things swiftly. Loss of alertness is an early indication of fatigue and may result in less effective vehicle control.

Poor judgment – Before drowsiness sets in, fatigue affects the driver’s capacity to think clearly, which is vital when making safety-related decisions and judgments.

Drowsy driving (drifting into micro-sleep) - Drowsiness means feeling sleepy, but not actually being asleep. When drowsy, a driver may actually drift in and every so often without knowing it (micro sleeping).

Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes - It’s presumably one of the first things you notice when you start getting tired.

Poor memory – Fatigue will ultimately affect your memory even causing the inability to remember driving the last few kilometers

Mood change accompanied by a sense of impatience - Being fatigued can make you irritable, disturbed, and aggressive. You start to overreact to things that wouldn’t normally upset you.

Other warning signs could entail:

  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Wandering, disconnected thoughts – daydreaming
  • Approaching corners, intersections too fast
  • Not noticing signs and hazards early enough
  • Missing your exit
  • Starting to see things that are not there
  • changing speed without noticing
  • poor steering or braking too late
  • Lane drifting

Causes of driver fatigue

Despite the fact that the primary cause of driver fatigue can be associated with the lack of quality sleep, various other factors can likewise contribute to fatigue such as:

  • Long driving hours – Long work hours, particularly beyond 17 hours can prompt fatigue.
  • Tight work Schedules – Stressful work with tight scheduling can lead to fatigue.
  • Inadequate rest breaks - Fatigue can result from lack of enough time to rest and recover between shifts.
  • Disruption of circadian rhythms (typical cycles of daytime activity and night rest)
  • Environmental stresses (heat, noise and vibration)
  • Sustained mental or physical exertion - Work such as loading and unloading, as well as heavy lifting,  can add to the onset of fatigue.
  • Alcohol, other drugs and stimulants
  • Health complications e.g. presence of untreated sleep disorders

How driver fatigue can be managed

A guiding principle in the successful management of fatigue is founded in the ability and flexibility for drivers to have enough rest at all times. To achieve this:

  • Develop and maintain a regular routine that provides for sleep, meals, daily living and time off for all drivers. This will improve sleep quality and alertness.
  • Minimize very early departures to give drivers the maximum opportunity to sleep in preparation for the trip.
  • Eliminate schedules that result in undue pressure on drivers.
  • Use effective policies and fatigue-monitoring equipment that ensure a driver stops driving before becoming impaired by fatigue.
  • Provide training to drivers on combating fatigue and supervising/assessing drivers’ fitness for duty through a shift.
  • Ensure a solo driver gets at least 7 hours of continuous sleep in a 24 hour period.
  • Operate flexible schedules to allow for Short Break Time or discretionary sleep if possible.
  • Get enough fresh air into the vehicle while driving. Stale air contributes to drowsiness.
  • Listen to music, talkback radio, or engage in conversation to avoid boredom.

CoR is important for all parties involved with the delivery process, not just the truck driver. Sine Workflows can help companies and drivers keep track to ensure that they stay compliant.