Former NSW cop Greg Casey always had the best interests of truckies at heart when he was on the job, particularly when it came to helping them better manage their fatigue behind the wheel.
So, when he retired from the NSW Police about 18 months ago, after spending the previous 25 years with the NSW Highway Patrol, he decided to do something that would make a lasting difference, a PhD using truck driver fatigue as his research topic.
A PhD candidate within the School of Social Sciences, Policing, at Western Sydney University, Casey is hoping his published findings will better inform bureaucrats and politicians when it comes to improving fatigue management policies and laws.
Casey kicked off his callout for research subjects at the recent National Road Freighters Association annual conference in Wagga Wagga and is now looking for more volunteers.
“I’m looking at policy, but I’m looking at it from the perspective of the truck driver,” said Casey, a former sergeant and highway patrol supervisor.
“What works for truck drivers, what doesn’t work. If it works, why does it work. If it doesn’t work, why does it not work. And I’m also looking at interviewing law enforcement officers to get their perspective, as well as interviewing truck driver managers, so the people who are responsible for scheduling them and giving them their day-to-day tasks.
“So, I want to try and cover the whole gambit of everybody who is at the frontline making those final decisions that determine what the truck driver does throughout the day, in regards to the rest breaks, and how they manage their fatigue.
“What are the barriers and challenges to them in managing their fatigue and also managing their compliance around fatigue as well.”
The 30- to 60-minute interviews take place either via Zoom or by phone and involve answering a series of questions in two streams, one for those with a good understanding of driver fatigue, and the other for a more limited knowledge.
“I’d like to think that most truck drivers would have a reasonably good knowledge of fatigue and what it is, but we’ve got to be prepared for both sides of the story.”
At the end of the interview phase, Casey plans to write a series of reports, or research papers, on each component he unearths in his study to be published in peer reviewed academic journals.
“That way the research findings will be out a lot sooner than if I just did it the traditional way.”
All participants in Casey’s study will be kept completely anonymous, even to the extent he has a dedicated phone for the research process with a sim card that will be destroyed when he’s done.
“The reason for that confidentially is not just to protect the drivers who participate, it’s also about encouraging them to tell me the truth.
“If we’re going to get to the nub of the problem, there’s no point in people telling me what they think I want to hear, or what they want their boss to hear.”
Casey hopes that drivers will want to get involved because it’s a chance to have a say from their own perspective that could bring about positive changes.
“We’re not putting them into a controlled environment, we’re not interviewing them in the workplace. And we’re asking you a series of questions that that will give us frontline information,” Casey explained.
“There’s a lot of research that’s been done, certainly, but a lot of it takes drivers out of their working environment and puts them into a simulated environment, or goes into the work environment and asks them questions in the workplace.
“All of that data is aggregated and looked at from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have the depth of knowledge from within the industry that a truck driver has.
“The academics, politicians and bureaucrats might have the best of intentions but they’re not looking at it from the truck drivers’ perspective as to actually how it’s going to work when it hits the ground.
“I’m very much focused on getting the opinions of the people who are affected most by driver fatigue and that is the truck drivers. They’re the ones bearing the brunt of the enforcement load.”
To have your say in Casey’s PhD project, or for more information, phone him on 0499 244 538, or email email@example.com.