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A pivotal case highlighting heavy vehicle safety has urged industry leaders and operators to take immediate action. Recently, a company was fined heavily after a tragic collision in April 2020 that killed four people. The driver responsible was found to be fatigued and under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

An investigation uncovered serious negligence by the company over seven months before the crash:

  • More than 40% of the company’s driving shifts had fatigue-related issues.
  • Around 800 out of 1,900 shifts showed fatigue problems.
  • The supervisor approved over 500 of these problematic shifts.
  • The company didn’t report most of these breaches and even faked records to hide issues.

As a result, the company was charged for failing to manage driver fatigue properly, endangering lives. In November 2023, they were fined $2.31 million and banned from transport activities for a year. The Managing Director also faced a fine and was mandated to undergo more training.

Accountability for Executives and Operators

The case serves as a stark reminder to industry executives and operators alike of their important role in safeguarding lives of people who use vehicles as a workplace.

In light of this, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) cited practicable measures and potential controls that can be implemented to promote safety on the road.

For executives, priotising safety by ensuring that fatigue and fitness for duty policies align with obligations under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and the Master Code is key.

It’s crucial to provide comprehensive training to all workers, ensuring they can identify, and address risks associated with fatigue and fitness for duty. Establishing a robust system for handling HVNL non-compliance, and actively monitoring its effectiveness is also necessary.

Being proactive is key – executives must not rely solely on information; they should ensure that drivers know and follow policies. Furthermore, timely and genuine responses to HVNL breaches are crucial.

Finally, the NHVR urges executives to maintain proactive engagement in organisational activities, staying updated through regular staff briefings, and avoid shifting responsibility onto others.

On the other hand, operators need to ensure that company policies align with the HVNL, and Master Code requirements related to fatigue and fitness for duty.

Identifying and minimising risks through established policies and procedures is paramount. Regular updates, monitoring, and reviews of these policies and procedures are necessary for their effectiveness.

Enforcement of policies requires not only compliance but also ensuring that staff are adequately trained in them. This proactive approach helps create a safety-conscious culture within the organisation.

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