Fatigue management for commercial vehicle drivers

NHVR work sheet

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Posted by Hubfleet

Driver fatigue is a major safety hazard for the road transport industry. The main causes of fatigue are not enough sleep, driving at night (when you should be asleep) and working or being awake for long periods. 

National Heavy Vehicle Law (NHVL)  

The National Heavy Vehicle Law (NHVL) governs all states and territories in Australia, except WA and NT (although WA has similar laws).  The laws aim to prevent the driving of a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle on a road while impaired by fatigue. Fatigue regulated heavy vehicles are defined as: 

  • a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of over 12t 
  • a combination when the total of the GVM is over 12t 
  • buses with a GVM over 4.5t fitted to carry more than 12 adults (including the driver) 
  • a truck, or a combination including a truck, with a GVM of over 12t with a machine or implement attached. 

The laws cover all aspects of work and rest relating to heavy vehicles. It is important to note that the NHVL also include Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws that mean it is not just the driver who must understand and ensure compliance with fatigue laws. All parties in that have influence over a transport operation are part of the chain of responsibility (CoR) and must proactively manage risks and hazards and must not take action that could cause a driver to breach the NHVL.   

It is therefore important for all parties in the CoR to understand the fatigue laws, not just drivers. 

Work and Rest Requirements

To remain compliant with the NHVL drivers must not exceed the limits of work and rest requirements set out by the NHVL for the “work option” they are working under. There 4 prescribed work options listed blow 

  • Standard Solo 
  • Standard Two-up 
  • Basic Fatigue Management Solo (BFM) 
  • Basic Fatigue Management Two-up (BFM) 

There is also a custom Advance Fatigue Management (AFM) option that operators may apply for to carry out specific transport operations that may not be practical under the prescribed options. 

Each work option specifies a list of time periods and the work and rest required within these periods. For example, the rules for Standard Solo work option are tabulated below. 

When do you need a work diary? 

A heavy vehicle log book (NHVR work diary) is used to demonstrate that you compile with the work and rest requirement specified in your relevant rule set. Drivers of fatigue-regulated heavy vehicles must carry and complete a work diary to record their work and rest times if they: 

  • operate under standard hours and work more than 100km from their base or 
  • operate under basic fatigue management (BFM) or 
  • operate under advanced fatigue management (AFM) 

You must carry work diary records with you for 28 days after the record is made whenever you driver a fatigue regulated heavy vehicle. 

If you are stopped by an authorised officer for a roadside inspection, you must produce your NHVR work diary when requested to do so. The authorised officer may direct you to immediately stop work and not work again for a specified period of time (for example, 24 hours) if: 

  • you fail to produce your work diary without a reasonable excuse 
  • you produce a document that the authorised officer reasonably believes is not a work diary 
  • the authorised officer reasonably believes that the work diary or other record produced cannot be relied upon 
  • you have exceeded your work time or failed to take a minimum rest break 
  • the authorised officer reasonably believes that you are impaired by fatigue. 

The officer may copy or seize one or more of the pink duplicate daily sheets from your work diary if required. If you are working under BFM hours or AFM hours you must, upon request, show the authorised officer the accreditation certificate and signed document from your operator. This document must state that you have been inducted into the fatigue management system. 

 Electronic Work Diary v Paper NHVR Logbook 

 Drivers and operators now have a choice of using either Written Work Diary (WWD) or an (NHVR) approved Electronic Work Diary (EWD). In some ways, there is not a big difference between the two. EWDs do not automatically record work rest events and (unlike those in the USA) are not linked to the trucks engine. Only the driver can make and approve work/rest changes and if mistakes are made they can be easily corrected. There is also a common misconception that EWDs send information directly to enforcement officers, making it easier for a driver to be prosecuted for a fatigue breach. However, this is not true. EWD compliance is enforced during a road side inspection in the same way a written diary is. All approved EWDs have a feature that allows them to be presented to an authorized officer at a road side inspection in a read only compliance view.  

That said, EWDs have a number of significant advantages. They are much quicker to fill in and they record time to the nearest minute rather than in 15 minute blocks used by a paper nhvr log book. Some drivers say this alone can save up to 1 working day each month. 

The other big advantage of EWDs is that they automatic check the drivers record work and rest records against the rules sets and provide alerts when a breach is approaching.  

Most of the rules follow a format of “driver must not work more than X in period Y”. Or “driver must have at least X rest in period Y”. However, there are rules that specify continuous rest breaks, for example at least 7 hrs continuous rest in a 24 hour period. There are also rules that specify when rest must be taken, for example the night rest rules. The BFM option also has rules that specify the amount of work since the last 24 hour rest break and the concept of Long/Night work. With such complicated rules, even the most experienced drivers make mistakes. 

A common mistake stems from not properly understanding how time is counted. For periods less than 24 hours, time is counted forward from the start of each work activity. For periods of 24 hours or longer, time is counted forward from the “end of a major relevant rest break”.  The length of the major relevant rest break varies for each of the work options. For example, for Standard Solo it is 7 hour, while for BFM solo it is 5 hours. Drivers often mistakenly believe that their 24 hour periods reset after a major relevant rest break. However, it is possible to have overlapping 24 hour periods. For example, a driver starts work at 8am works and for 10 hours in an 11 hr period, finishing at 7 pm. They then complete a 7 hrs rest and start work again at 3am the next day. By mistakenly thinking that their 24 hour period has reset, they forget to add the hours between 3am and 8am to their previous day’s total. In this example, they have worked 15 hours in the 24 hour period starting 8am the day before. This would be considered a critical breach and could be punished with a fine of up to $16,190 and a loss of four license points. This a very expensive mistake is easy to avoid using an EWD.  

So which EWD should you use? It is important to note, than only an NHVR approved EWD can be used to replace a paper NHVR logbook. So far the NHVR have approved 6 EWDs. These are listed on the NHVR web site. Of these 6 approved EWD, three can only be purchased by buying specific hardware that is fitted to the vehicle (MTdata Swift, Teltrac Navman and Netstar) resulting in a significant upfront cost. The Smart eDiver EWD has an Android app that can be download from Google Play Store, but it can only legally be used on around a dozen devices listed on the approval certificates. The Quallogi EWD is available on both Android and Apple, but again it is restricted to only a handful of device listed on the approval certificate. The Hubfleet EWD is the only work diary app that has met the NHVR’s higher device agnostic standard. This mean that it has been approved to run essentially on any Android or Apple device. The only restrictions are that the device must be less than about 5 years old and have a screen size of 4.5 inches or bigger. Devices with screen sizes that small are very rare. For example, the IPhone mini has a screen size of 5.4 inches. This make the Hubfleet EWD the only true BYO device solution for the industry. The Hubfleet EWD app is complete national solutions, our work diary rules cover all NHVR rule sets, including custom AFM rules, as well as WA accreditation scheme rules.