Why our truck drivers are leaving the industry

Why is it that in Australia we are happy to lay all the responsibility on just one group while there are many others who should share that same responsibility and carry some of the load?

We have a law that discriminates against one section while failing to administer the same law to others who should also be made responsible as well. Heavy vehicle drivers verse drivers of recreational vehicles towing loads is the area I speak of. 

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) makes the heavy vehicle driver be accountable to manage fatigue. Within this law he/she faces extensive penalties massively greater than any other vehicle driver.    

No other vehicle driver is expected to manage their fatigue at work or while driving, even on their days off.  

No other driver must allow an officer to go back in time to check if they have failed or broken a law during a previous time. 

No other driver must abide by the regulated hours of work and drive. A recent court case has shown where officers went back four years to get evidence to take a company into court for prosecution.  

The recreational vehicle driver towing loads, often at maximum weights, or above, do not record their fatigue management when driving.  

Bring those drivers under fatigue management same as heavy vehicle drivers. Any vehicle driver can become fatigued and then can be responsible for causing an incident while driving.

In April 2022, Australia had 820,000 caravans and RVs registered for road use.

Drivers going through a red light, failing to take a bend on the road, failing to stop or slow down in roadworks controlled by a stop and go sign operator, failing to stay on the correct side of the road or drifting into another lane may be fatigued. All of those can be deadly to another. 

Why does the heavy vehicle driver have to be the only driver required to manage fatigue?

Why have governments decided only the heavy vehicle driver should pay massive penalties/fines while so many other fatigued drivers are allowed to continue to drive fatigued with no listed penalty? 

Fatigue needs to be tested in another form, NOT by the start and finish time entered in a logbook by a driver.

Recent official statistics show that 80 per cent of small vehicle drivers have been found at fault in crashes involving a heavy vehicle and a car.

Why has that 80 per cent given a pardon to manage their fatigue?

Why is it that governments do not regulate the car driver to manage his/her fatigue, especially those drivers who are towing loads such as caravans, trailers and boats?

The HVNL states that fatigue management of heavy vehicle drivers will protect all road users. Really? Heavy vehicle drivers only control one vehicle not those vehicles meters away from them.

It is about time that as a progressive country we made all road users be responsible to always manage their fatigue whilst driving, then we all are contributing to road safety.  

Make each driver face the same regulations and penalties for fatigue related issues as required by heavy vehicle drivers OR reduce the penalties for heavy vehicle drivers to be in line with those the lighter vehicle driver now faces while not managing fatigue.

In April 2022, Australia had 820,000 caravans and RVs registered for road use. 

At the same time there were 900,000 registered boats in Australia. Census records show 80 per cent of those are under 6m in length. Let’s say only 300,000 of those less than 6m boats are moved by trailer on our roads. That’s a combined total of 1.12 million recreational units that require a driver to tow them.  

Those drivers also can be, and often are, affected by fatigue. 

The number of heavy vehicle drivers in Australia in 2021 was 189,500:  1.12million drivers do not record or manage their fatigue, that is 5.91 times more drivers that tow loaded units that are not required to manage their fatigue. Not hard to see why I say there is discriminating factors happening.

Some may say those recreational vehicle drivers are only driving short distances. That may be true.  BUT so too does many of the heavy vehicles only travel short distances, so that argument becomes null and void right there. The stats from 2015 show the average yearly kilometres travelled per heavy freight vehicle was 68,300. 

There are many videos showing caravans wrecked due to drivers who were fatigued whilst towing them.  

That clearly shows the heavy vehicle driver is in the minority at a ratio of 5.91 to 1 against the heavy vehicle driver. That’s 5.91 not required to manage fatigue, to each one that is required to manage fatigue.

Why is there a necessity to regulate only one out of 7 (6.91) drivers who drive and tow loads from boats and caravans right up to the largest heavy vehicles in Australia, all of which are quite capable of causing injury and death if the driver is fatigued?

The author, a former truckie himself, believes all drivers sharing the road should have to operate under the same fatigue management rules as heavy vehicle drivers.

A driver not stopping at a red light can receive a fine from $150 up to $400 depending on which state he receives that penalty and can also lose 2 or 3 licence points. 

On the other hand, the heavy vehicle driver who gets held up at a serious road accident site, and no matter how he tries, fails to manage his fatigue legally caused by him having to work 15 minutes outside his regulated hours. For that he can face $11,000 as a penalty if the case goes to court. This driver caused no risk to anyone but is implicated for being honest with his logbook entry.

That car driver who did not stop at a red light does not face $11,000 fine. That car driver’s actions had a greater danger than the heavy vehicle drivers 15 minutes work outside the regulation for fatigue management.

One in seven drivers has been made to carry the whole burden of responsibility for fatigue management.

Governments should either reduce penalties for heavy vehicle drivers to match those of the recreational vehicle brigade, or they can bring the recreational vehicle drivers into the same regulations that heavy vehicle drivers are required to be regulated by. That would then have approximately 1.4 million drivers regulating fatigue instead of only 189,500 drivers.

Governments have anti-discrimination laws in place in Australia, so why on earth do they then create a discriminatory law.

Do they think discrimination only belongs to race or skin colour?

The discrimination outlined here is aided by lazy governments who have their eyes shut for road safety but have eyes extremely wide open for revenue raising.

A precedent already exists and has been set by elected politicians themselves, in both state and federal parliaments whereby sittings that go late into the night debating issues of law, there are recorded incidents where politicians have been filmed sitting there asleep, not paying attention to what is debated. How are they so different?

Let us follow those precedents already set by those in government in the same way courts follow previously set precedents. Change the fatigue laws by reducing penalties for heavy vehicle drivers so there is no discrimination against that minority which now exists.

I think it is only fair to request from our elected members that they rule by example, rather than rule by discrimination.

  • Selwyn Sinfield is a veteran truckie and industry advocate


  1. A friend of mine is a guitarist. One night, he had been playing guitar with friends, until early in the morning. Whilst driving home, he literally fell asleep at the wheel; and, he ploughed into the rear of a parked car. Fortunately, he was wearing his seat-belt, and walked away with a few bruises and scratches. But, it could have been much worse. He didn’t get a fine; nor did he lose any demerit points. He just had to pay for the damage to the parked car; and, buy himself a replacement car. [From Roy; retired truckie]

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