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Business gets a wake-up call on driver fatigue

December 3, 2015

Recent figures show that many hundreds, if not thousands, of heavy vehicle drivers are still flaunting the law – as well as their safety and that of other road-users – by driving for too long without a break.

Recently, the Courier Mail ran an article noting that almost 3,200 driver fatigue and logbook offences were detected in Queensland in the past financial year. That’s despite a strong police presence and public campaigns to combat the problem.

During a police blitz in Queensland’s Road Safety Week, a truck driver on the Sunshine Coast was found to have been driving non-stop for 18½ hours (12 hours is allowed for standard drivers and 14 hours for drivers who have achieved basic fatigue management accreditation).

Between 2008 and 2013, it is claimed that more than 15 per cent of road fatalities in the State were identified as being fatigue-related crashes, although the actual number could be much higher as it can be difficult to identify fatigue as a causal factor.

The Queensland figures, if extrapolated to take in the rest of the country, highlight an extremely dangerous problem.

The relevant road and heavy vehicle authorities and associations have launched a concerted effort to address the issue, including offering a range of schemes to help educate and equip drivers with the necessary knowledge about fatigue management (and the law).

Even so, fatigued drivers of heavy vehicles remain on our roads.

Blame for accidents is shifting

Traditionally, these drivers and operators have been the focus of road laws and, consequently, have often been ‘hung out to dry’ when caught by police. However, authorities now recognise that breaches are often caused by the actions (pressures) of others.

These actions may include unrealistic freight delivery schedules, time pressures to run long hours or break speed limits, inaccurate log book maintenance, overloading, and more.

Under Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws, anyone who has control over the transport task can be held responsible for breaches of road laws and may be legally liable.

Even Executive Officers, which include company directors, are exposed to criminal liability if their company is found guilty of breaching its obligations under COR Laws. And because the heavy vehicle national laws came into effect on 10 February 2014, not being aware of them will not be treated as an excuse.

COR and its associated obligations can be difficult to navigate. That’s why Portner Press has created the COR Adviser, a monthly newsletter written by legal expert, Geoff Farnsworth, a partner at Holding Redlich, and expert in transport law.

COR is similar to the legal concept of ‘duty of care’ that underpins workplace Health and Safety. And, similar to WHS, penalties and sanctions range from formal warnings to fines and penalties, some severe.

Not knowing your COR obligations could be disastrous for your business, and for your personally.

The COR Adviser is written in plain English and contains case law examples, industry updates, a help desk, Q&A and many tips surrounding the four pillars of COR law – Speed; Mass; Load Securing; and Fatigue.

Start your obligation-free trial today.