Why your business needs to prioritise driver safety

Everyone involved in the transportation industry recognises that drivers' safety and their adherence to the rules of the road is incredibly important. However, if you own or manage a fleet of vehicles, how do you know your drivers follow the road rules? And what recourse do you have if something goes wrong?


Sadly, a Safe Work Australia report has found that truck drivers are 15 times more likely to die than workers in other industries. Australia's Transport Workers Union (TWU) believes the culture of risk-taking and breaking the law in trucking has risen due to the heavy demands placed on modern-day truck drivers.

Truck drivers themselves claim they are under pressure to break the law, with the most prominent concerns being skipping rest breaks or cutting them short and using rest breaks to load or unload. Pressures to meet their delivery deadlines have also contributed to speeding and driving under the influence of drugs.

Enforcement of regulations is ramping up

New laws implemented as recently as 2019 were developed to improve truck safety. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), which created the laws, says new legislation makes it harder for companies to evade their responsibilities.

"Under the new legislation, anyone in the supply chain who influences the safety outcomes of a heavy vehicle operator has a responsibility," says NHVR's executive director of Safety Geoff Casey.

Parties in the supply chain under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) have a responsibility to ensure breaches of road transport laws don't occur. Here are some of the key watch-outs for both drivers and those they are transporting for:

  • Pushing business practices or demands that cause a driver to breach fatigue management requirements or speed limits
  • Failing to secure, weigh, or measure loads, including poor weight distribution over the axle
  • Setting schedules with unrealistic time frames
  • Causing unreasonable delays in loading and unloading, impacting on driver hours and delivery times
  • Incorrectly packing goods
  • Entering terms in contracts and arrangements that encourage, incentivise, or reward drivers or other parties for breaching the law

The Chain of Responsibility and the legal ramifications

The Chain of Responsibility (CoR) ensures that the varies across the supply chain share responsibility for ensuring that breaches of the HVNL don't occur. This means there is shared responsibility for the following:

  • Mass
  • Dimension
  • Loading
  • Speed
  • Fatigue laws¬†

Everyone involved in the management and operation of a heavy vehicle (more than 4.5 tonnes) is now part of the supply chain. This means they have a shared responsibility to prevent injuries and breaches of road transport law and other regulations from occurring. Duty holders need to ensure that their action or inaction does not contribute to or encourage violations of the HVNL and Regulations.

In 2013, a 40,000-litre tanker truck ploughed through afternoon traffic in Mona Vale, Sydney, killing two men. This example is often used in the industry to portray the horror of truck accidents. More recently, a trucking company was hit with 35 infringement notices following an accident involving a semi-trailer that crashed into multiple police vehicles and killed four officers. In the second example, the manager of the trucking company is also facing manslaughter charges due to breaches in CoR.

Accidents can happen to even the most skilled drivers when it's least expected. Ensuring drivers meet safety regulations and compliance is not just a question of completing extra paperwork; it's making the roads safer for everyone using them.

Increased penalties for not meeting CoR requirements

Corporate fines are five times that of individual penalties and can be extended to three times the commercial benefit received by committing the offence. As of 1 October 2018, new Primary Duty Penalties are enforceable across three categories, with varying degrees of severity.

For example, a severe Category 1 Recklessness breach may now include up to five years imprisonment, a $300,000 fine for individuals and $3,000,000 for corporations.


Prioritise safety to avoid breaches and penalties

To ensure our roads remain safe and your business is mitigating the risks of what a disastrous accident could mean for your business, it's integral to have a proactive approach to driver safety. Leveraging driver safety tools that track and monitor drivers and vehicles creates a strong foundation for ensuring chain of responsibility and compliance with safety regulations.

Through an integrated GPS asset tracking and monitoring solution, you can set up safety and compliance tools including:

  • Real-time tracking and vehicle health monitoring
  • Driver behaviour monitoring, including speed, driving time recorders, and seat belt sensors
  • AI-powered dash cams that look for signs of fatigue, distraction or other dangerous behaviours using facial recognition and eye mapping algorithms
  • Real-time automated alerts to operators and head office staff warning of risk or unsafe operation
  • Digitised and centralised pre-start checklists, maintenance records and incident reports

These tools help ensure that you and your drivers are compliant with the latest health and safety regulations and acts as an indisputable witness in the event of a road accident.

Additionally, the surfacing of this data often leads to the realisation and correction of unconscious habits and enables drivers to make better decisions on the road and dramatically reduces the likelihood of accidents and safety breaches.