VTA 2021 NHVR says fatigue technology trial soon

By: Mark Gojszyk

Pilot testing in fleets to start identifying preferred regulatory path

VTA 2021 NHVR says fatigue technology trial soon
Sal Petroccitto addresses the conference

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is to probe how fatigue technology can be recognised in regulatory frameworks, CEO Sal Petroccitto says in an update to the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) conference.

Petroccitto emphasises fatigue is a key area of focus for the regulator and technology will be one of the aspects to help it in this space.

"There is widespread agreement across the industry that counting time is not an effective measure of managing fatigue, and fatigue is unique to each individual," he says.

"What makes you tired is something different to what might make me tired.

"We know that to properly manage fatigue risk we need to collectively manage individual driver behaviour fatigue as well.

"One of the key tools in helping to manage the individual driver fatigue is around fatigue, distraction and detection technology.

"We know the benefit of this technology and its ability to contribute to saving lives by alerting drivers to incidents before they occur is where we need to land.

"So we want to foster this life-saving technology, which is why we are launching a pilot of this technology to understand how it can be recognised in the regulatory framework."

Though short on further detail, Petroccitto notes the pilot will start in May with a "small and contained group" of operators, with a view of expanding the program later in the year.

"We think this is the right approach to take with technology – a partnership model whereby the interested parties work together to understand the benefits for everyone."

Petroccitto says it is important that the legislation is neutral with respect to technology

"You have made significant investment in technology solutions to meet your individual business needs," he says to delegates.

"Governments should be leveraging the systems you have in place – we support a model similar to the development of EWDs [electronic work diaries], where the regulator may set the performance standard or criteria – not the type of technology, we let the market determine how to best meet those standards."

Read how the NHVR tackled fatigue issues for AFM, here

The fatigue technology trial falls into the broader context of how future industry regulation is shaped, with Petroccitto expanding on the regulator’s submission to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC’s) consultation regulation impact statement (RIS) on the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review.

NHVR seeks a "law that’s clearer, forward-looking and future-proofed" as there likely won’t be as good a future opportunity for reform beyond this, Petroccitto notes.

He doesn’t want to see all power to the regulator, rather to "regulate efficiently but still held to account by ministers" while having more scope to be responsive to change, with current framework needing 12-18 months for any legislative change.

For operators, he wants "risk-based investment and commitment rewarded and supported by legislation put forward", with a prescriptive element still able to those who so desire it.

On that, Petroccitto notes he is not supportive of operator licensing, saying the cost of it is too great compared to current frameworks, with a competency-based approach a more desirable outcome.

Though not expanding on it, he argues a national heavy vehicle registration system is worthy of investigation.

Further, the NHVR CEO is keen on swifter heavy vehicle access gains, particularly around performance-based standards (PBS) vehicles.

Data shows PBS vehicles are involved in 46 per cent fewer crashes per kilometres travelled, and are 15-30 per cent more productivity, helping to transition away from older trucks.

The 12,000th PBS combination is projected to be reached soon, and not by 2030 as originally forecast, with a 40 per cent increase in PBS vehicles on past year driven by industry demand and the instant asset write-off.

On road access, some 94 per cent of permits are approved but the process is too slow, Petroccitto notes, with a 28-day limit too long, and 14 days more desirable, though VTA CEO Peter Anderson echoes some operator sentiments that such arduous permit processes are not necessary at all.

While that reality is some way off, Petroccitto notes, he sees a risk- and consent-based focus as honing in on higher-risk sectors and easing the burden for those with proven safety records.​

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