Buckle Up for More Truck Driver Safety Improvements

Trucking safety has improved over the past decade, but there’s still a need to protect truck drivers at work better.

Heavy vehicles have been involved in fewer crash fatalities since 2003. That’s despite more freight movements (55%) and road freight volumes (51%) in that time, according to a national insurance body.

However, the fatality rate for truck drivers hasn’t budged over the past two decades. In fact, truckies are 13 times more at risk of a fatal injury than other workers, research shows.

Key improvements for truck safety in Australia

Overall, though, truck safety has improved thanks to driving hours reforms, and most jurisdictions standardising logbooks. The industry has also made a cultural shift away from “keep driving until the job is done”.

Other boosts to safety on the agenda include:

  • Contemporary safety features becoming standard in trucks
  • Monitoring technologies, such as tracking drivers’ blink rate, eye and head movement and wakefulness, etc., and
  • System-wide moves such as connected and automated vehicles and reducing the age of fleet vehicles

Fatigue remains an issue

Driver fatigue is at fault for more than a quarter of major incidents in remote areas.

Doing shift work can disrupt sleep and biorhythms, meaning drivers are less alert when awake. They also suffer from lower mood, reduced performance, and mental and physical fatigue, studies show. Other signs of fatigue include excessive head nodding or yawning, blurred vision and feeling unrefreshed despite sleep.

Being aware of fatigue laws

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator lists a range of laws about work and rest regarding heavy vehicles. They include:

  • Work diary
  • Work and rest hours
  • Record-keeping requirements
  • Counting time
  • Chain of responsibility (check the status in your state or territory), and
  • Fatigue management exemptions, such as for non-fatigue-regulated heavy vehicles.

Don’t drive – or let your workers drive – a fatigue-regulated vehicle on a road while fatigue-impaired. Cutting corners on safety could see the regulator successfully fine you, as happened recently. You can get an insight into possible upcoming laws from its Heavy Vehicle Safety Action Alan released in February.

Managing driver fatigue

Research shows exhaustion, work-stress-related burnout and certain personality characteristics help predict increased driver fatigue. For example, truckies open to new experiences and who drive in a demanding environment are less likely to get tired. Emotionally stable, extravert, and conscientious drivers tend to suffer fewer accidents, too.

Approaches to better managing truckies’ fatigue include:

  • Driver safety training in reducing fatigue, such as healthy lifestyle choices around food, sleep ‘hygiene’ (a white noise machine, such as a fan, can help), adequate hydration, and exercise, while avoiding alcohol and illegal drug taking
  • Remuneration systems that don’t encourage excessive driving hours and speeding, i.e., a flat rate per day or week is best, and
  • A safety-first work culture, which aims to reduce job stress for drivers and acknowledges truckies have high levels of depression and anxiety.

Insurance for transport operators

As a trucking business, ensure you check your drivers’ records for speeding, accidents, drink-driving, etc. It makes sense not just to verify your recruits’ records, but encourage existing staff to be open about any changes to theirs.

Ensure you have a clear, written system for assessing and reporting all drivers’ competency levels. This will come in handy when you apply for insurance and may result in a discount on your premium.

Typically, operating a trucking business means you’ll need cover for:

  • Truck and fleet
  • Public liability
  • Goods in transit

We can guide you on risk management and tailor a policy package to suit your unique business needs.