It’s time to stop with the Band-Aid safety initiatives and just fix it


Our drivers are our world and want them to always get home safely, but sometimes we just wonder how far the think tanks will go with their ongoing ‘safety’ initiatives.

Do you also feel like you’re banging your head against the red tape brick wall, or is it just us? We are seeing so many proposed Band-Aids for the industry and other road users, but we just see the same problems over and over and over again!

In an attempt to get to zero deaths on our roads, we get:

  1. More enforcement.
  2. Rumoured HVNL changes… STILL pending.
  3. Road User Charges (RUC) increased by 6 per cent on fuel over the next 3 years.
  4. Lack of being able to retain and/or recruit drivers.
  5. Lack of adequate parking and/or facilities for mandatory breaks.
  6. No income increases – despite nearly all other workers getting them.
  7. Higher insurance rates.
  8. More ‘safety’ initiatives.
  9. No decent health initiatives for drivers directly.
  10. Clearance on Heavy Vehicle Licence renewals for drivers with recorded mental health problems.

What’s happening to the 80 million sweeteners [Ed’s note: Labor committed $80m to build more rest areas] from the election? It seems to have gone on the simmer and nothing positive for transport in this budget, according to NatRoad.

Industry did, however, manage to get increased costs for registration and 6 per cent over 3 years added to the RUC.

What was Razorback about again? Maybe the increase is to raise the $80m they previously promised.

Although funding has been provided to at least three organisations for mental health and wellbeing help to the industry, those initiatives seem to work for the business/office/warehouse worker side of the industry but leaves a lot to be desired for the interstate and/or remote drivers.

Nothing seems to change, except for all the new listings in the heavy vehicle auction sites, Facebook posts on ‘another one closing their doors’, and a hell of a lot of job vacancies.

We’ll be right, we have a new quota for skilled migration, despite the fact we have plenty of drivers already in Australia who are simply fed up with their working conditions.

There is so much compliance with little help to be able to keep them compliant. Some say accreditation is the answer – more red tape.  It would be laughable if the logic wasn’t so damn scary.

Then the 3AW’s on-air item had to take the cake: Monash may have a way to blood test for fatigue within the next couple years.

Our first question is, What is the point of a blood test AFTER an incident to prove someone was fatigued, regardless of fault? This simply doesn’t make sense if enforcement bodies want to PREVENT fatigue related accidents.

The driver is already fatigued, an incident happens, but irrespective of whether the driver is at fault in the collision, they will get done for driving while fatigued.

How many variables are there in the medical definition of ‘fatigue’. Not a question you really want answered if they’re going to start charging people for driving fatigued after mandatory testing due to an incident. Over 75 per cent of drivers wouldn’t pass on the definitions alone.

Over a coffee, we were discussing some of the many issues that would impact a driver’s fatigue and the biomarkers that might result in a “gotcha” moment after a serious incident.

  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Depression
  • Diet
  • Stress/Anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Driving
  • Anaemia
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor quality sleep
  • Many other health conditions.

When are these people in the ivory towers going to stop blowing it out their proverbial rear end, take a step back and look at the practicalities.

Drivers have been screaming for years about:

  1. Adequate rest areas so they can get quality sleep.
  2. The need for better food options to help minimise the vast majority of the health conditions above.
  3. The requirements of having to wait an indeterminate amount of time to be un/loaded at one location and wasting their non-tired time waiting on others before having to put the pedal to the metal to make it in time to the delivery location(s).
  4. Legislative requirements for rest breaks at specific times.
  5. Load rates vs hourly rates especially for local drivers.

Each of these points impacts a driver’s fatigue on a daily and long-term basis.

Hell, if you don’t eat the right type of protein packed food for your last meal and you load up on carbs, drive up the road an hour and are involved in an incident, you’d get tested and possibly be caught out depending on the biomarkers they test for. High carb meals historically fuel fatigue.

  1. What is the purpose of testing after an incident to make it a safety ‘initiative’?
  2. Does the blood test pick up the difference between a heavy carb-loaded meal that causes drowsiness over the lack of sleep fatigue issues?
  3. Does the blood test delineate between the short term (24 hour) fatigue and medical conditions that impact fatigue?
  4. Do drivers need another post incident test for someone to be able to point a finger in their direction?
  5. Is it that insurance companies don’t like to pay?

The likelihood of a blood test being done on the side of the road by enforcement bodies is low, so preventative testing like RBT, RDT or heavy vehicle blitzes is also unlikely. There is no prevention component to this type of testing. They will only be reactive, not pro-active.

So, with all the hoops a driver is meant to jump through to be ‘fit to drive’ and be liable for if they don’t pass testing, it results in one thing: the driver remains at the pointy end with the likelihood of losing their licence. WHERE and WHEN do we draw the line in the sand and say no more Band-Aid ‘safety initiatives’ – FIX IT!

Drivers need better education, chain of responsibility requirements acted upon, support from employers/customers, adequate rest areas and availability of affordable, better quality (not quantity) food, education on protein vs carb food and its effect.

They don’t need more NHVL and red tape.

Maybe we all need to sleep on this one.

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