– By Caroline Falls –
Phillip Brooks Chief Inspector Stakeholder Relations Manager NSW Police gave a sobering presentation at the AfMA 2019 fleet management conference, talking about the impact of fatigue on the transport sector.
Brooks has presented widely on the topic of things gone awry in the transport sector, avoidable things that lead to death on the roads. Transport drivers — truck drivers, bus drivers, couriers and fleet drivers — are among the highest casualties in work-related death statistics.
Government statistics show the transport sector accounted for 40 percent of work-related fatalities in 2017.
“They are not managing fatigue as they should,” said Brooks. “This is probably the largest reason why they are falling asleep.” He advocated for observing the law and following legislative changes.
“They are carrying three diaries, they are carrying supplementary pages, they are carrying diaries in someone else’s name so business isn’t managing the fatigue for these drivers as they should through legislation.”
Heavy vehicle operators should be following standards established by national and state authorities as set out in the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual issued by NHVR, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. NHVR is also the regulator of electronic work diaries, approving certain ones for replacing easily manipulated paper-based diaries for recording work and rest periods.
Brooks went on to present a litany of avoidable failures resulting in death and injury and chaos from road closures.
Among them sloppy loading, mixing heavy and light goods, and not securing cargo appropriately.
Brooks said alcohol delivery trucks were racing around city venues with untied loads. “We pull up the curtains and alcohol just rains around,” said Brooks, adding, “Loaders are just putting freight on and hoping for the best. It’s the sort of stuff that comes apart and causes all sorts of issues.”
He talked about a truck getting wedged on a bridge on Sydney’s M1 — the road authority had to dismantle the bridge to dislodge the vehicle. “You have route planners not doing their job properly.” said Brooks. He said logging in rural NSW was a particular problem with improperly restrained loads shutting roads down.
One of the avoidable things is aftermarket tinkering with speed limiters. “That’s how you get a B-Double passing you at 125 kmh,” said Brooks. “We have got mechanics who are allowing speed tampering in trucks,” he said with raised eyebrows. Clearly, it was something he would like to see stamped out.
“That’s why trucks are overtaking you or your fleets,” said Brooks, adding he welcomed receiving dashcam footage of such incidents to investigate.
For truck drivers who get paid by the kilometre, making an extra Sydney to Melbourne leg a week is an incentive to break the rules. Still, it was no excuse, said Brooks, adding he expected fleet managers to be vigilant and stamp out inexcusable and unsafe practices.