Having a job that requires you to drive on Aussie roads all day everyday allows you to see the country, but it can also take its toll on your health and wellbeing. The roads are long, the traffic can be tedious, and the weather is usually extremely changeable.
In April 2019, Australia released the world’s first comprehensive study of driver fatigue. Our country has always maintained strict regulations to promote safety and prevent accidents for heavy vehicle drivers, but fatigue continues to be one of the hardest hazards to regulate (and one of the deadliest.)
According to Vicroads, (http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/statistics/summaries/fatigue-statistics) around 20% of fatal road accidents involve driver fatigue
What is truck driver fatigue?
If you’ve ever been on the road and felt drowsy, hard to concentrate on what’s ahead or just tired, this is fatigued driving. It affects your thinking with slower reaction times, poor judgment, and lack of concentration at the wheel. Yawning, heavy eyelids, and blurry vision have been shown to impair driving as much as 0.05 to 0.1 blood alcohol concentration!
If a driver falls asleep for just four seconds while travelling at a speed of 100 km/h the car will have gone 111 metres without a driver in control, not only is this bad for your health and your driving, but also can be dangerous for other motorists.
What are the laws in Australia?
Laws can differ slightly from state to state but in general these are the main laws you need to know travelling around the country.
- In any 8-hour period of driving, a solo driver must take at least two 15-minute blocks of continuous rest.
- During a 7-day sequence, 24 hours must be allotted for stationary, continuous rest.
- Regardless of drive duration or mandatory rest, if a driver is drowsy and notices the early signs of fatigue, they must take a break.
In general the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) specifies that:
- a person must not drive a heavy vehicle on a road while impaired by fatigue
- managing driver fatigue is a shared responsibility by all parties in the chain
- parties must take all reasonable steps to ensure a person does not drive the heavy vehicle on a road while impaired by fatigue.
When are you most at risk?
According to the two-year study, fatigue affects drivers differently during day and night.
While the sun is shining, drivers have the highest risk of drowsiness after 15 hours on the road; that is in stark contrast to high risk after 7 hours of driving when the shift starts in the afternoon or evening. Risk also increases if you’re driving a long sequence of more than seven shifts or at the start of a new night shift sequence.
How can you prevent fatigue and stay safe on the road? The Victorian Transport Accident Commission (http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/safe-driving/tips-and-tools/fighting-fatigue) offer a number of quick tips, we have outline 3 key steps for you:
- Prepare. Get a full, good night’s sleep and avoid drinking any alcohol before the start of your shift.
- Plan. Limit driving to a maximum of 8 or 10 hours each day and avoid traveling when you would normally be asleep.
- Refresh. Take regular breaks every two hours and pull off for a 15-minute power nap when you first notice any signs of fatigue.
If you feel you are fatigued but think you are fine to drive, the NSW Govt has set up a website to help you before you get behind the wheel called www.testyourtiredself.com.au