Technology – global navigation or positioning systems (GPS), alertness-monitoring technology, electronic work diaries (EWDs), telematics, speed limiters, electronic mass measurement technology. Most of us have heard of them, some of us use them, but how can we use them to facilitate CoR compliance?

Where does technology fit?

Using technology in your business practices won’t abrogate your obligations under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) but it can certainly be used to track, manage and evidence compliance with them.

The Chain of Responsibility (CoR) which has witnessed the proliferation of technology to manage compliance in the following key areas of the HVNL.

1. Fatigue management and work/rest hour options

Fatigue management is a cornerstone of ensuring the safety of transport activities using heavy vehicles in the industry. A fatigued driver is one that poses a safety risk to herself, other road users, infrastructure and the goods loaded to the heavy vehicle.

The HVNL tackles fatigue through specific obligations such as prohibitions on drivers driving while impaired by fatigued and requiring them to comply with work and rest options. It also tackles fatigue through general obligations, such as the prohibition on CoR parties making requests or contracts that would cause a driver to drive fatigued or in breach of work/rest hour options.

Industry has picked up EWDs, alertness-monitoring technology and GPS to support fatigue management:

  • EWDs are an alternative to written work diaries. They are devices or systems that monitor drivers’ work and rest. They are designed to improve the accuracy of time recording by drivers and to reduce administrative burdens around record keeping for operators under the HVNL
  • alertness-monitoring technology is designed to monitor and recognise symptoms of driver fatigue, sleep and distraction. Often systems notify drivers, operators and employers if drivers show signs of fatigue
  • GPS monitor the location of heavy vehicles and record their journeys.

To maximise the use of the above technology (collectively or independently) to HVNL compliance, businesses should pair their capabilities of capturing data in real-time with their safety escalation procedures. For example, if notified by the EWD program of a driver’s breach of work/rest hour options or by the alertness monitoring technology that a driver is exhibiting signs of fatigue there could a procedure for the driver to pull-over and to contact her operator/employer to identify her next steps, whether it be to cease the work hour breach or to further assess driver fatigue.

GPS systems can also be used to cross-check the accuracy of written work diaries and EWDs. For example, in the conviction of Adelaide based trucking company the Magistrate’s Court held that the company should have used its GPS data to cross-check work diaries that were affected by extreme breaches of fatigue regulations. Its failure to do so constituted a contravention of its obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure its drivers did not drive impaired by fatigue (which could arguably be tried under the primary duty now). The company was fined $21,6000 plus costs.

In this way these technologies work not only to support specific obligations around work/rest options and fatigue but also general obligations of operators, including their primary duty to ensure so far as reasonably practicable the safety of their transport activities.

2. Speed management

The HVNL provides that:

  • heavy vehicles more than 4.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) must not travel in excess of 100 km/h
  • CoR parties have a primary duty to ensure so far as reasonably practicable, the safety of their transport activities, including not directly or indirectly causing or encouraging a driver to speed
  • CoR parties are further prohibited from requesting or contracting with another party if the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the contract or request would have the effect of causing the driver to speed.

To support compliance with these obligation industry has turned to using speed limiters and electronic speed management.

Speed limiters are devices that limits heavy vehicles maximum speed. They essentially don’t allow drivers to breach speed maximum speed limits applied to their heavy vehicles. By ensuring that they are appropriately fitted to heavy vehicles businesses can use this technology to support compliance with their primary duty.

Electronic speed management systems, often referred to as telematics, use satellite tracking and wireless communication technology to monitor, among other things, the speed of heavy vehicles. This technology can include GPS. To optimise the use of telematics to promote business compliance with HVNL obligations, businesses should pair capabilities that notify them of speed contraventions with escalation procedures. For example, a procedure could include a continuous notification to the driver to slow down. Alternatively, if a business is notified of persistent contraventions of a driver of speed limits then there may be formal warnings or employee reviews implemented.

3. Mass management

Drivers and persons permitting drivers to drive must ensure vehicles comply with mass requirements. Compliance with this obligation at an operational level may include operators giving directions to drivers to use weighbridges and collect mass data at those sites when loaded.

Alternatively, some businesses have picked up electronic mass measurement technology to demonstrate and evidence compliance with HVNL obligations. Such technology has the advantage of providing immediate, reliable and recorded mass data for gross and axle weights.

To maximise the use of this technology for HVNL compliance (as with any technology) it is important that drivers are trained to interpret data and to also provide escalation procedures. For example, use of mass measurement technology should be paired with procedures informing drivers of what to do if they are overloaded.