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Fatigue is a major safety hazard for all drivers, rivalling the effects of excessive speed and drug and alcohol consumption. Even a split-second mental lapse can result in serious injuries or fatalities. If a driver falls asleep for just four seconds while travelling at a speed of 100 km/h the vehicle will have covered 111 metres without a driver in control.

Research from NZTA found that in 2017, fatigue was a contributing factor in 32 fatal crashes (9 per cent of all fatal crashes), 100 (4 per cent) serious injury crashes and 474 (6 per cent) minor injury crashes.

Fatigue presents similar safety risks as drink driving – drivers who have been awake for 24 hours perform like somebody with a blood/alcohol content reading of 0.1g/100ml (or double the standard limit) – yet it doesn’t carry the same social stigma.

While the need to tackle driver fatigue within the road transport industry may seem obvious, it’s difficult for transport operators to regulate and enforce. Tired drivers don’t intentionally cause disruption or harm; it’s simply the excessive amount of time spent behind the wheel that creates risk.

How did we get here?

Driver fatigue management is a crucial part of work health and safety in the transport industry. The larger the mass or weight of a vehicle, the greater potential disruption it causes. At the centre of fatigue management laws is a primary duty that says a driver must not drive any vehicle while impaired by fatigue. With everybody in the Chain of Responsibility legally obliged to share. the responsibility and is held accountable for influencing driver behaviour and compliance. Managing adequate rest breaks no longer sits solely with the driver, it’s a management issue too.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is a natural phenomenon triggered by physiological factors – not getting enough sleep, driving at night and working for long periods of time. Ideally, we need between seven and eight hours of good quality sleep each night. Those with less build up sleep deficit. Driving while impaired by fatigue means you’re seven times more likely to have a collision.

How can we improve management of work hours?

Fatigue is one of the most highly regulated aspects of the transport industry. From a safety standpoint, every individual needs to understand why fatigue management matters. Certifying driver compliance with fatigue management policies will make our roads safer for all users. Yet monitoring a driver’s work diary presents challenges. Past experiences have clearly shown that paper-based logbooks are not always accurate, they’re open to misinterpretations and can easily be falsified by drivers.

Electronic logbooks are helpful tools for both drivers and management in ensuring drivers:

· take adequate work and rest times during their work week

· keep an accurate record of adherence to health and safety regulations

· don’t waste unnecessary time on the admin of paper logbooks

An NZTA-approved electronic driver logbook, such as our sentinel solution, makes it easy for drivers to accurately log start, stop and rest times. It will alert them when they need to take required rest breaks. There’s no need to spend hours filling in a complex paper logbook, drivers know exactly where they stand, and your operations staff can be fully aware of a driver’s availability to work under current fatigue laws.

Better management of driver fatigue and compliance with the relevant laws will help reduce the injuries and deaths that result from tired driving. This is ultimately at the heart of what everyone wants to achieve with fatigue management

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Megan Duncan is a Director of Marketing at Teletrac Navman.

Megan Duncan is the Director of Marketing, Australasia at Teletrac Navman. Megan has 10+ years experience in marketing technology solutions with background in Telecommunications and IT channels.