Different approach called for on fatigue laws

Fatigue researchers say new report reinforces industry position that drivers be given flexibility in choosing rest breaks

By Rob McKay | August 5, 2011

New research on sleep and driver safety should lead to a different approach to regulation, the NatRoad annual conference in Townsville heard today.

In presenting the findings of the most comprehensive survey yet on the issues of truck driver sleep and fatigue, Dr Adam Fletcher says the findings show previous assumptions needed review.

The report, titled The Value of Rest: The Impact of Rest Opportunities in Sleep Length and Quality in Australian Truck Drivers, co-written with Dr Stuart Baulk, showed recovery on the road was not the same as at home, where time management is less scheduled and more flexible.

Drivers take more naps on the road, which they use strategically to alleviate fatigue and tactically as a response to fatigue. In this way they were able to maintain alertness.

This reinforces an industry position that drivers be allowed flexibility in choosing rest breaks, Fletcher says.

The report also highlighted sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea as a major problem for drivers.

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