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Driver fatigue

Fatigue is an acute or ongoing state of tiredness that affects worker performance, safety and health and requires rest or sleep for recovery. It is one of the main causes of crashes involving heavy trucks and buses.

Comcare, consistent with the work of the National Transport Commission, is committed to ensuring the safety of drivers and the public with whom they share the road through the implementation of policies and practices addressing the management of fatigue. Managing driver fatigue is not just the responsibility of PCUBs and workers in the transport industry but in all industries which utilise the services of heavy trucks and buses.

Hazards associated with fatigue

As outlined in the Guidelines for Managing Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue [pdf] (released by the National Transport Commission), fatigue can affect a person’s health, reduce performance and productivity, and can increase the chance of a workplace accident or road crash. Evidence also suggests that fatigued people are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour.

Risks associated with heavy trucks and buses

Driver fatigue is a potential risk for the drivers of any vehicle and all PCBUs requiring workers to drive vehicles of any nature should consider the need to undertake a risk assessment as part of meeting their general duty of care to their employees. However, the greatest risks, both to the individual driver, and to the public, with whom they share the road, are associated with the driving of heavy vehicles over long distances.

PCBU Duties

Section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires a person conducting a business or undertaking to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and other persons are not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.

To ensure that the risks are managed in accordance with the duties under the Act employers should systematically manage the risk to health and safety which can arise from the drivers of heavy trucks (with Gross Vehicle Mass of over 12 tonnes) and buses (whether commercial or non-commercial) experiencing fatigue.

PCBUs can systematically manage the risks by undertaking the following four-step risk management process:

1. identify the hazard
2. assess the risk associated with the hazard
3. control the risk
4. review the process

When undertaking risk management, PCBUs must follow the relevant Commonwealth regulations and give consideration to the codes of practice. If no regulation or code exists in relation to a specific hazard or risk, PCBUs should choose a reliable source of guidance to follow.

Relevant Guidance Material

National Transport Commission - Fatigue Home Page includes a range of detailed information on the management of fatigue including the Guidelines for Managing Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue [pdf] (October 2006).

Further Information

For further information about this fact sheet, or others in the series, please contact Comcare on the general enquiry line 1300 366 979 or e-mail whs.help@comcare.gov.au.

Page last updated: 20 Mar 2014