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The Price For Inattention To Driver Safety Is High

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

In NSW recently, a truck driver was sentenced for an accident on Sydney’s Northern Beaches in which his 22-tonne track flipped over and hit cars waiting at a busy intersection. Two police officers on their way to work were among the six injured.

In handing down the three-year sentence, Judge Deborah Payne said the driver ignored multiple signs warning of the need for low gear on the incredibly steep road. He was in the wrong gear, travelling almost double the speed limit and failed to engage the exhaust brake. She found no evidence of a mechanical fault as he claimed and said she saw no other recourse than jail time. "This case is certainly not one of momentary inattention or misjudgement," Judge Payne said.

But it is a horrific reminder of how high the stakes are when it comes to driver safety. Even without such a tragic event, there are grave consequences for failure to follow correct procedures. A few weeks before the outcome of this trial, another truck driver copped a $17,500 fine when a random inspection by the Roads and Maritime Services on a 63-tonne B-double travelling from NSW to Victoria found he’d made false or misleading work entries. Cameras confirmed that on five occasions, the driver hadn’t stopped and rested as the diary claimed, breaching fatigue laws.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to become complacent about or immune to the wider ramifications of bending the rules. Maybe it’s to save money or to meet a deadline. Maybe it’s even human nature: overconfidence bias makes us think we are better at something than we are. It’s why people think they can speed because they are such an awesome driver, but everyone else who does it is a dangerous lunatic.

Consequently, it falls on fleet managers and compliance officers to take every feasible step to create an environment which minimises the likelihood of flouting the rules. This is especially important as changes to Chain of Responsibility legislation which comes into effect early next year signals a heightened focus on holding all stakeholders to account. Here are some areas to consider.

Roster with Care

Your deadlines are tighter than your budgets, but there are some corners you simply can’t afford to cut. Making sure your targets are realistic or you take fatigue management rules into account before assigning the next job stops is important. Especially in the transport industry which relies heavily on contractors who may not speak out through fear of being viewed difficult to work with.

Act Sooner, Not Later

Addressing problematic behaviour early is obviously hugely beneficial, but how do you get the insight you need? For instance, in the case of the Northern Beaches accident, the driver had been ticketed once in his five years in the industry, for failing to give way at a roundabout, hardly a concerning record. Technology is increasingly providing opportunities for fleet managers to understand their drivers’ habits better. One recent test in Singapore explored using Artificial Intelligence with telematics data to flag the bus drivers most likely to have an accident. Thinking more in the here and now, GPS fleet management systems allows you to look at things such as speeding and harsh braking in real time instead of waiting for someone to get caught

Make Doing The Right Thing Easy

There’s something fundamentally painful about paperwork. It’s the repetitiveness of entering the same base data time and again, combined with needing to pull information from your mind’s furthest recesses of the mind (or even calculate it yourself). Paper work diaries are no exception. While they are still a legal requirement, using them in conjunction with an Electronic Work Diary (EWD) removes some of the drudgery of collecting and calculating. Work and rest periods are calculated and recoded automatically once the driver hits the start of the job on the in-cabin device. It also means you can cut out human error or other inaccuracies due to less honourable motives.

Cultivate a Safety-First Culture

Sometimes drivers are hesitant to use processes that improve safety because they either don’t understand how to use them or fear it’s weapon to punish them for a misstep. By taking them on your safety journey with support and education, it’s easier to get everyone working towards the right outcomes.


No one wants to be on their way to work and spend months in hospital recovering from injuries, no one wants to take action that results in the death or injury of others. And no one wants to end up in jail. We all need to work towards creating a safe driving environment.

For more on driver safety and compliance download our Transport Compliance eBook.

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