ATA backs establishment of new fatigue research body

ATA praises Federal Government decision to fund new research centre, saying it has the potential to reduce fatigue-related truck crashes

February 18, 2013

The trucking industry has supported the establishment of a new research body backed by funding from the Federal Government, saying it has the potential to cut fatigue-related truck crashes.

The Federal Government last week pledged $14.5 million to create a new cooperative research centre (CRC) focusing on reducing the burden of impaired alertness on the safety, productivity and health of Australians.

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Chairman David Simon says the group and its member associations briefed the Government on the importance of funding more research into driver fatigue.

"The Government’s decision recognises that addressing driver fatigue and alertness is vital for the trucking industry’s safety. Although the proportion of serious truck accidents caused by fatigue has halved, insurance industry figures show that fatigue still causes 10 percent of serious truck crashes," he says.

"We know that more than 80 percent of major crashes caused by fatigue occur on the driver’s outbound journey within 500km of the point of departure. In other words, the vast majority of these accidents occur because drivers are fatigued when they start work."

Simon says more research needs to be directed toward fitness for duty and into sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea.

"Recent research has shown that more than 40 percent of truck drivers could have sleep apnoea. Only 12 per cent would detect as positive on the test used in truck driver medicals," he says.

The ATA earlier this month fired off a submission to the National Transport Commission (NTC) urging it to develop a fitness for duty standard that includes an objective test for sleep apnoea.

"The development of this standard and a better test needs to be on the NTC’s work program, with the new CRC working up better methods for assessing sleep disorders and better treatments tailored to each individual," Simon says.

"Drivers who are diagnosed with sleep apnoea and treated can continue to work, they are safer on the road, and they say their quality of life is much better."

The Federal Government says the CRC will bring together researchers, industry, communities and government to produce research addressing challenges in the public and private sectors.

The Government has also committed $20 million to a CRC for cell therapy manufacturing, and $31 million for a CRC to look at autism spectrum disorders.

It says it intends to pitch in $619 million in funding for the CRCs between 2012-13 to 2015-16.

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