Fatigue management: Sad story of irresponsible actions

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With changes coming to Chain of Responsibility laws (in 2018) and impending changes to fatigue risk management requirements, the following story is one that underlines the need for best practice by everyone in the Heavy vehicle industry.

The truck driver who killed a cyclist in a crash in South Australia was working for a Transport company with a culture that pushed drivers to work long hours without enough rest, a court has heard.

The 49 year old driver has pleaded guilty to causing the death of 61-year-old man, when he ploughed into a group of cyclists near Port Pirie in March last year.

The driver was on amphetamines at the time but his lawyer said fatigue, the result of him working unreasonably long hours for The Transport Company, contributed a big part in the crash.

“My client found himself employed in an environment that had little regard to fatigue and general management principles,” the defence lawyer told the SA district court during sentencing submissions on Friday.

“There was an attitude that everything was all right as long as the job was getting done. “He allowed himself to be caught up in that culture … ultimately my client suffered fatigue.” The lawyer said fatigue was no excuse for the Driver’s dangerous driving but at least explained it, urging the judge to consider this when sentencing.

The Prosecutor said the Driver was working longer hours than what was acceptable under fatigue management regulations.“He was recording in his log book fake entries,” and “It would appear as if he was complying with the regulations but he was not. “He was working too many hours and not having sufficient rest.”

The driver was filling out a separate time sheet with his actual working hours so that he would be paid correctly, the court heard.

The Prosecutor said the Transport Company did not take the necessary steps to ensure its drivers were sticking to fatigue management laws and strategies. The crash killed the man and injured two other cyclists, also aged in their 60s and from the local Port Pirie Cycle Club.

Earlier the court heard 13 victim impact statements from family and friends of the man killed and those injured. The Driver was sorry for the pain he had caused and the lives he had ruined, the court heard. He has also pleaded guilty to two counts of causing harm by dangerous driving and will be sentenced on 7 April.

This story underscores yet again, the need for systematic best practices in fatigue management to be implemented and diligently followed through. Not only do the victims suffer the long term consequences, so too does the Driver, whose Heavy Vehicle driving career is now over.

(Names of Driver, Company and lawyers involved removed. Story reported by AAP March 31st 2017)

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