When it comes to keeping your drivers safe, fatigue is one of the biggest challenges. Drivers spending long hours on the road suffer from impaired judgement and can struggle with a host of other psychological and physical health issues. If they’re awake longer than 24 hours, research shows they drive like someone with a blood alcohol limit twice the legal amount, and are seven times more likely to have an accident.
The Chain of Responsibility (CoR) states that it’s everyone’s obligation to effectively manage fatigue – from fleet managers and operators to drivers themselves. To help businesses meet their CoR obligations, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) produces a regular podcast that looks at the major issues facing road freight and transport organisations. Recently, it outlined the five most common risks related to driver fatigue.
Failing to account for these factors may put your drivers and your business in jeopardy. Here are the risks you need to be aware of and five tips to protect your business.
1. Blind Job Scheduling
When a driver is out on a scheduled run, it’s common for an operator to ask them to pick up extra jobs, even if it wasn’t part of the original journey. This seems like a harmless way to get work completed, but it puts the driver at risk of exceeding maximum work hours.
To avoid this, the scheduler needs full visibility into how long the driver has worked before assigning a job. With paper work diaries, this is a time-consuming process of checking in with the driver or using a combination of work diary sheets, delivery times, satellite tracking and even toll information. When using an Electronic Work Diary (EWD), work and rest times are captured and shared in real-time with both the driver and the back-office. Having immediate access to a drivers work and rest times can let you schedule far more accurately and within Fatigue Management rules.
2. Lack of Training
Heavy vehicle drivers have a responsibility to know their work and rest obligations. Yet without ongoing training, such as regular toolbox meetings, it can be challenging to reinforce the importance of fatigue management for drivers. Providing regular training and refresher sessions will show drivers that you’re dedicated to their safety, while giving them the tools they need to manage their own CoR requirements. It's also a chance to emphasise the importance of accurate records, outline the different duties of each person in the chain and let drivers voice any concerns in an environment they feel comfortable in.
3. Inadequate Record Keeping
Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), transport operators are required to keep records for their drivers. If there’s an investigation, you’ll be asked to provide all relevant work records for your employees. This requires you to have each driver’s diary pages on hand. With paper-based diaries, you may find that there are sheets missing, while others are lost, damaged, forged or tampered with. Using an automated Electronic Work Diary, you can easily pull up historical reports of each drivers’ work and rest times, captured in real-time from their vehicle, and be confident that the information is accurate and up-to-date.
4. Multiple Information Sources
The NHVR states that the most common risk for businesses is not cross-checking multiple types of work records. When conducting an enquiry, investigators won’t just look at work diaries. They’ll also examine other points of reference, like trip sheets and toll dockets. It’s the responsibility of operators and employers to make sure these records match up.
When you’re capturing all this data manually, it can be a massive administrative burden that involves a huge amount of paperwork and time. It’s also likely that you’ll come across anomalies that can’t be easily reconciled. Integrating the data from all your different business systems will significantly reduce this workload. And if an audit does take place, capturing accurate work diary entries with an EWD will make going through the records a much easier task. It also provides your staff the ability to audit the EWD work diary against a paper work diary.
5. Not Documenting Everything
If a driver is behaving in an unsafe way, or not completing accurate work diaries, the first step is to speak with them one-on-one. Unfortunately, many operators forget to make a record of a non-conformance discussion, which can put your business at risk. If a CoR investigation takes place, they’ll not only look at the system that identified the issue, but also ask for a record of what steps were taken next. A formal, dated record of the guidance you provided (and any actions you agreed on) will ensure you meet regulatory requirements. Capturing these records electronically will allow you to pull up historical documentation at a moment’s notice if needed, saving everyone a lot of time and stress.
Around 20 per cent of fatal accidents involve driver fatigue, so there’s no question it’s a serious issue. The best way to keep your drivers safe and your business compliant is to maintain accurate electronic records. In the long run, this will also save you a massive amount of time and resources spent poring through paper records and matching up data.
This blog post is based on ideas shared in a podcast from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.