Fatigue blitzes are getting beyond a joke

The NHVR’s fatigue blitzes and their supposed emphasis on industry safety is getting beyond a joke.

How do they gather statistics to determine that fatigue is responsible in fatal heavy vehicle crashes, or crashes generally on our roads?

Unless there is a survivor in a fatal crash, who can say for sure that the driver fell asleep at the wheel? It is ONLY speculation fatigue was involved because there is no survivor to question.

There could be any number of reasons ANY vehicle crosses to the wrong side of a highway and creates a serious crash: medical episodes, distractions and lack of attention, and mechanical issues.

These include mechanical issues that aren’t obvious like a steer tyre blowout that don’t surface in a post-crash investigation, especially if there are no witnesses.

It’s hard to pinpoint a tyre blowout as a cause in a serious accident because most of the time tyres are destroyed in the event of a crash anyway. But there are ways investigators use that are reasonably accurate to confirm, or eliminate, if an array of different mechanical issues are LIKELY (rarely directly) to be responsible.

There’s a lot of emphasis on policing fatigue in our industry that is questionable and intrusive.

I have a fine outstanding from being in SA two years ago. I was doing a changeover at Ceduna and would have normally only been in and out, and back at the WA border in 11-12 hours.

It took Transport SA two hours to go through my work diary to confirm what I already admitted when arriving at the Ceduna weighbridge, that I hadn’t filled my book in since the previous night.

There were two offences each in the $900 range: one for the current non-filling out of my book and a previous non-written entry.

Now it’s the cost of these fines in comparison to the offence that is the issue. A first offence drink-driving charge in most states in Australia is around this much and a much more serious offence than not filling out a logbook.

To top the fines off, there also a levy of $500 payable to the SA Government to fund their victims of crime. I don’t even contribute to the victims of crime in my home state. It’s unfair and unjust that I need to contribute to their issues.

I don’t know of any other work environment, or industry, that financially penalises and scrutinises trivial issues as this.

It’s my opinion, and the opinion of many others within our industry, that there is a sufficient number of good, experienced drivers that are more than competent in their job, but may not be so competent in the paperwork aspect of modern logistics, either academically, or on the score of literacy and I believe this is preyed upon by some regulatory authorities.

It doesn’t make sense

Here’s another interesting point.

If you want to drive more than the (BFM) standard 12 hours per day, you must sit an NHVR-approved fatigue management course.

This then allows you to drive the advanced (AFM) 14 hours per day. During this course you get to learn the complex amount of allowable driving hours per day, per week, when you need to take breaks, minimum duration of the break time, etc.

It also teaches us about nano and micro sleeps, things most of us are aware of anyway. Once you complete the course, you are good to drive an extra two hours per day.

These courses aren’t cheap and are usually funded initially by the employer and sometimes recovered by employee wage deductions.

The only reason really that the person who’s attended the course can do an extra two hours per day is because money has changed hands.

If you don’t pay, you can’t do the course. There’s nothing in that course that is going to give you an advantage over any other driver.

All of a sudden you can magically find the ability to drive two more hours per day?

In theory, a young driver who’s just got his or her truck licence and never driven long distance anywhere can pay money and attend the fatigue management course, then head off and think he/she can consistently push 14 hours driving/work a day.

In comparison, an experienced long-distance driver that also has DRIVING experience on his/her side, but money hasn’t changed hands and has never attended the course is only allowed to drive/work 12 hours per day.

This is despite them having travelled the journey many times, having knowledge of their own driving capabilities and being aware of when they are becoming tired.

They also usually have a routine of where they pull up at night, shower, have dinner, etc.

It doesn’t make sense. There are too many variables that determine a driver’s long-distance driving ability, stamina, road conditions, etc. I know which driver I’d prefer coming at me in the middle of the night.

It makes me laugh when these courses and employers start advising heavy vehicle drivers to ‘plan or schedule your fatigue breaks’ prior to your journey.

How much homework are we meant to do before we even get to work; how much of a driver’s actual private life is required to prepare to go to work?

The regulators are creating an unsafe environment by stipulating when we need to have a break and for how long. There needs to be one regulation of either 12 or 14 hours per day driving, or a combination of only driving/work per day.

If we went directly as the book says, they are creating situations that become unsafe and unproductive.

The law says five hours only of continuous driving then a break must be taken.

Rarely these days can I sit in the chair for five hours straight anyway. I usually like to get out sooner than that, check things, have a walk around and get going.

Other days I might be able to drive longer. I have an easy routine to follow – I drive when I’m awake and go to bed when I’m tired.

No use sitting in a parking bay wide awake because the work diary says I need pull up.

Every day and journey is different. Some days I might not get as far as the day before. I can’t tell you beforehand when I’ll become tired or fatigued.

These days I try and stick to a routine and punch out a 1000km a day, but every day’s different.

I might only be able to do 800km in a day before calling it a night, or I might be able to do 1100 or 1200km another day.

By having a book to abide by, it can end with drivers having to take breaks when they don’t need them and then trying to drive when they’re tired because the book says so.

It needs to be capped at either 12 or 14 hours per 24 hours and in any configuration you want to do it that works for you.

Embrace the technology

It’s 2024, there’s all this emphasis on technology and how we must work smarter.

There are cameras all over this country monitoring heavy vehicles, it’s time to embrace the technology.

There’s numberplate recognition, just about all transport businesses use GPS to track their fleet. All major truck and engine manufacturers can get any information about the vehicle by plugging into it with a laptop.

There is no reason software can’t be developed by people like the NHVR to ‘plug in’ to your vehicle at the roadside or checking stations and find out where you have been in the last 24 hours, how long at speed the truck has been running, when it was switched off, idling time – it’s endless information.

It should then be up to the compliance officer to determine how many hours driving and breaks we’ve had, NOT the driver.

They are the people who want that information, then they should have to find and get that information, not by trying to decipher a handwritten work diary that’s knowingly subject to human error and flaws.

That would be all too easy – and 100 per cent more accurate.


  1. I agree with Cameron.

    I read his licencing story too.

    Perhaps his next could be the lack of education most drivers, but especially Caravan drivers seem to have about trying to be professional sharers of the road. Maybe understanding what Truck Driver have to manage every day.

  2. Correction required here….
    Standard work hours is 12 in 13 hour period, BFM work hours is 14 in 17 hour period, AFM/Exemption hours are higher again.
    That being said, I agree whole heartedly with the article as a whole.

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