Monday, December 22, 2008

Regulatory approach to fatigue in car drivers and Current driving hours regulations

Current driving hours regulations do not meet evidence based critical factors
The expert group's evidence-based critical factors are similar to those identified by expert panels in the United States and Canada and when applied to assess the current prescriptive driving hours regime highlight deficiencies including:
  • The maximum working (including driving) period in a day does not accommodate circadian patterns (time of day factors);
  • The minimum rest periods do not account for cumulative fatigue issues and the variable length of break required for adequate sleep opportunity at different times of the day;
  • The minimum rest periods do not accommodate the opportunity for night sleep;
  • The short rest breaks are arbitrary and do not allow breaks to be taken when they may be of most benefit.
The expert group's recommendations present challenges for industry and regulators
The expert group's primary focus was on the scientific basis for any regulatory options but it was cognizant of operational, social and economic cost-benefit and compliance dimensions. It gave consideration to a range of factors like journey completion issues, queuing and slotting, availability of rest stations, cost burdens and ease of enforcement.

It was recognised that some of the proposals may create challenges for current operational practices but the expert group was equally clear that improvement and reduced risk is dependent on some of those practices changing to accommodate the state of knowledge about fatigue. The need for change is not limited to the driving task but must encompass the supply chain.

These design principles should be considered in developing prescriptive traditional driving hours regulation or other options such as performance based regulations and codes of practice. To illustrate how the design principles could be applied, an indicative model was prepared by the expert group. The expert group saw this as one way of progressing the better management of fatigue but anticipated there would be other ways of putting the principles into practice.

Whilst the process of developing regulatory options involves robust examination of many factors and inevitable pragmatic compromises, the design principles set out in this report are considered fundamental to improved outcomes.

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