Truck Driver Fatigue Laws: What You Need to Know

truck driver fatigue laws and management

Truck driver fatigue is a serious issue and safety hazard to not only the truck driver but also other road users. As a truck driver, you need to be well versed in the truck driver fatigue laws applicable to the relevant state you operate in. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of truck driver fatigue laws and management in Australia.

Truck Driver Fatigue Laws

In simple terms, the law states heavy vehicle drivers must not drive or operate a vehicle fatigued. In order to ensure compliance, truck drivers are required to record both work time and rest time. In order to remain compliant it’s important to understand what constitutes work time and rest time.

What is Considered Work Time?

Work time doesn’t just consider the time spent driving. It considers all tasks in relation to the operation of heavy vehicles. This could include tasks such as securing truck tarps and load restraints, loading and unloading the vehicle, safety checks, staff briefings, cleaning, and completing documentation.

What is Considered Rest Time?

Rest time is all time that is not considered work time. 24 hour periods of rest time are considered a ‘relevant major rest break’.

Who Do Driver Fatigue Laws Apply To?

  • According to the Heavy Vehicle National Law, driver fatigue laws apply to drivers with a:
  • vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of over 12t
  • combination when the total of the GVM is over 12t
  • bus with GVM over 4.5t fitted to carry more than 12 adults (including the driver)
  • a truck, or a combination including a truck, with a GVM of over 12t with a machine or implement attached.

How Many Hours Are You Allowed to Work Without a Break?

The amount of work and rest hours required depends on what option the operator has chosen. Under Heavy Vehicle National Law there are 3 different options to choose from, standard hours, basic fatigue management (BFM), and advanced fatigue management (AFM). Depending on which one the business has chosen to comply with, indicates the regulation surrounding work and rest hours.

Standard Hours

Operators who don’t have accreditation for fatigue management are required to operate under ‘Standard Hours’. Meaning every time a certain amount of work hours is reached, a break must be taken. Break times depend on the number of hours worked.

Basic Fatigue Management

Operators with Basic Fatigue Management accreditation can operate under more flexible work and rest hours, allowing them to (among other things) do up to 14 hour stretches in a single 24-hour period.

Advanced Fatigue Management

With Advanced Fatigue Management, you have the option to propose your own work hours as long they are offset by sleep and rest. This system offers a great deal of flexibility than the other two options. However, in order to operate under these regulations, both businesses and drivers need to demonstrate to the NHVR that they understand all associated risks and can demonstrate they are taking reasonable steps to off-set these risks.

Counting Hours

As driver fatigue laws are heavily reliant on the amount of hours spent working and resting, it’s important that drivers keep record of their hours appropriately. Currently, fatigue laws relating to keeping work diaries only apply to the following states. New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and ACT. If you are an interstate truck driver, it’s important you also understand the different laws and regulations in each state.

Chain of Responsibility Laws

The chain of responsibility highlights that every in the logistics supply chain is legally liable if a fatigued driver gets into an accident. That means in the case of an accident, there is not one sole responsible person for the accident. These include people who load the freight, unload the freight, employers, and management. Therefore, it is an entire team’s responsibility to ensure that driver fatigue is avoided and that there is a driver fatigue management plan in place.

Signs of Driver Fatigue

It’s important to be aware of the different signs of truck fatigue. If you are experiencing these signs on the road, you shouldn’t be driving a truck. These can include:

  • Frequent Yawning
  • Slower reaction times
  • Loss of concentration
  • Impaired driving performance
  • Difficulty in maintaining
  • Daydreaming

How Do You Manage Driver Fatigue?

The obvious answer is to ensure you get a good night’s rest before you start driving. Other tips include keeping on track of your working hours to ensure you are not driving over the maximum, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and looking out for any colleagues who may be showing symptoms of fatigue.

Truck Driver Fatigue Management Courses

Some trucking companies provide drivers with a truck driver fatigue management course, however, this is not mandatory. Driving fatigue management training courses are accredited and offered by registered training organisations.

Keep Safe on The Road

It’s extremely important that both employers and employees are well-versed in the regulations surrounding truck driver fatigue. If you are ever unsure, it’s always best to reach out to your employer or the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator for more information.

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