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Commercial Drivers Urged Not To Dice With Death

5 December 2008

Commercial Drivers Urged Not To Dice With Death To Meet Christmas Deadlines

With rising freight demands in the lead up to Christmas, commercial drivers could be at risk of fatigue if they push themselves too hard to meet deadlines.

ACC injury prevention programme manager Sandra Nelson is reminding New Zealand’s commercial drivers not to overdo it as they deal with their busiest period of the year.

``Commercial drivers – whether they’re couriers, truck drivers or pizza delivery people – can spend hours on the road, negotiating traffic with often tight delivery deadlines. There’s the temptation to push past what is a safe number of hours behind the wheel. But with fatigue estimated to have been a factor in 13% of road fatalities last year, the price of working on just isn’t worth it,’’ she said.

Fatigued drivers cannot concentrate enough to drive safely so they can’t make good judgements. They’re also more likely to speed and could fall asleep at the wheel.

``Of course, if you’re a commercial driver, the road is your workplace so driving while fatigued is also a health and safety issue. But all company managers, not just those in the transport sector, have a legal obligation to pay attention to employee driving manner including fatigue. That means not putting unrealistic expectations on them, and monitoring how many hours they’ve been on the job,’’ Ms Nelson said.

Three years ago ACC and the Police launched a campaign to positively shift employers’ attitudes on driver fatigue and other unsafe driving practices.

As part of the campaign, police stop commercial drivers who are spotted driving erratically, not keeping left, or generally appearing distracted – all driving behaviours that can indicate fatigue. Along with their ticket they are handed a flyer that includes a pre-emptive disclosure notification that Police/ACC will notify their employer about the offence. The flyer also includes information about fatigue.

Companies or businesses that regularly feature are then followed up with feedback and advice on how to minimise risks and make the workplace safer for their staff. The programme is running in Wellington, Eastern, Central and Bay of Plenty police districts, and is just starting in Waikato. It is run with the support of the Department of Labour, Ministry of Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency.

``The idea is not to punish drivers or companies who break the law but to educate them about how to be safe on the roads,’’ said Sandra Nelson. ``Of course that goes for any time of year, but even more so at this stressful time when there is more traffic on the road, everyone is rushing, and freight is piling up. Pushing past tiredness makes you a dangerous driver, not a good employee.’’

For more on avoiding driver fatigue please go to the injury prevention area on the ACC website www.acc.co.nz.


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