TWU slams fatigue research as NTC adds details

Focus on impact of current laws for 18 month project; TWU attacks approach

TWU slams fatigue research as NTC adds details
Anthony Williams highlights safety outcomes.


In what is described as an Australian first, the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC) and the National Transport Commission (NTC) will link to evaluate the effect of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) on heavy vehicle driver fatigue.

With the industry chronically under-researched, the alliance will seek evidence on the impact of work scheduling practices on heavy vehicle driver fatigue, and the quality and quantity of drivers’ sleep during minimum rest periods.

The research and understanding shortfall means "our ability to examine the impact of current laws on heavy vehicle driver fatigue has been challenged", the NTC says.

Making use of "increasingly accurate alertness detection methods and sleep monitoring devices", the Alertness CRC research aims to support future fatigue reforms.

"The CRC’s key mission is to conduct research and develop new products and services that will improve alertness, safety and productivity for individuals and within organisations," Alertness CRC CEO Anthony Williams says.

"Through our partnership with the NTC, and with the support of our other industry and academic partners, this project will facilitate the best research to support HVNL fatigue laws and deliver the safest outcomes for heavy vehicle drivers and operators."

The study will take place over 18 months, measuring driver drowsiness and sleeping patterns, both on the road during real-world work shifts and in laboratory settings.

According to the NTC, the research will "use state-of-the-art alertness measurement technologies and a unique combination of research and industry based expertise that is made available through the Alertness CRC".

"Our role is to help improve the productivity, safety and environmental performance of Australia’s road, rail and intermodal transport systems," NTC chief executive Paul Retter says.

"We do this by proposing and developing national reforms and helping to ensure that those reform outcomes approved by ministers are realised on the ground."

Along with cash from Transport for New South Wales, the Institute for Breathing and Sleep and Monash University, the effort gained $828,000 in federal funding.

The federal spend attracted immediate flack from the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which compared it unfavourably with the Coalition government’s abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT).

"We have had decades of research telling us truck driver fatigue is a major problem and that financial pressure on trucking companies and drivers themselves is what is forcing people to drive long hours," TWU acting national secretary Michael Kaine says.

"We had a tribunal in place which was investigating this problem and holding wealthy retailers and manufacturers to account for low cost contracts which are at the root of the problem.

"The Federal Government tore this tribunal down and now it is spending public money to make it look like it cares about deaths in truck crashes. In reality it is starting to look like they realise they got it wrong."



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