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Driver fatigue testing to prompt new safety standards

The Liberals and Nationals Government and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) are investing in new field trials to test driver fatigue monitoring technologies, which can enhance heavy vehicle safety outcomes.

At the NHVR Fatigue Safety Forum held in Sydney on 3 October, Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister, Michael McCormack, underlined the Australian Government's commitment to road safety, including driving the development of new technologies, with the NHVR, to combat heavy vehicle driver fatigue.

McCormack said field trials of the SmartCap technology would be conducted by the Port of Brisbane and the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) as part of the Heavy Vehicle Safety Around Ports project.

The Heavy Vehicle Safety Around Ports project is being funded by $302,000 from the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, supported by the Federal Government.

The NHVR will also provide a further $250,000 to trial other driver fatigue monitoring technologies and initiatives, including in-cabin sensors and on-person sensors.

McCormack said the aim of the field trials is to stimulate new technologies with the potential to reduce road deaths and trauma, targeting driver fatigue management.

He said driver fatigue is a major killer on Australian roads and in the heavy vehicle industry, with current estimates showing that 8 to 20 per cent of all crashes are fatigue-related.

However, a growing number of transport operators have been alerted to the use of new technologies to complement their existing processes for monitoring driver fatigue.

“The Liberals and Nationals' Government is committed to ensuring people arrive home sooner and safer a critical element of success is developing new technologies which can enhance road safety outcomes,” he said.

“Technology is evolving quickly and it's pleasing to see it is being increasingly used by the heavy vehicle industry to improve driver safety.

“Over the past couple of days operators have provided numerous examples where they have adopted this technology without any legal recognition.

“I'm keen to see whether in the future we can support and provide regulatory flexibility for operators to use this technology.”

NHVR CEO, Sal Petroccitto, said the field trials would be used to determine if a range of fatigue detection and monitoring technologies can deliver additional safety benefits over traditional approaches by also monitoring driver distraction and drowsiness.

“In addition to road safety, the trial will look at the operational efficiency of different fatigue monitoring technologies and the best ways to support their uptake,” he said.

“It will include field operations of different fatigue monitoring technologies as well as consultation with current users and other stakeholders to determine what, if any, law changes should be considered in the review of the heavy vehicle law.”

Analysis of currently available technologies will begin later this year with field trials starting in early 2019.

The NHVR Fatigue Safety Forum heard from more than 40 industry members over two days, with a focus on informing the upcoming review of heavy vehicle fatigue laws, which are now almost two decades old.

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