Conviction for driver fatigue-related bus incident
21 December 2021
On 21 October 2021, tour and charter bus operator Joy Study and Tour Pty Ltd was convicted of dereliction of safety duties relating to fatigue management, and fined $15,000, at Melbourne Magistrates Court.
Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) pursued Joy Study and Tour Pty Ltd (JST) after a reportable bus incident occurred on the Great Ocean Road on 3 February 2018 that resulted in serious injuries to two passengers travelling on board a JST minibus.
Lisa Faldon, Director Bus Safety, said the subsequent TSV investigation determined that the incident was a direct result of driver fatigue.
“The failure of the JST fatigue management system to meet the required safety standards in Victoria led to the incident and subsequent serious injuries to two passengers.
“Employers have a duty of care as well as occupational health and safety obligations to protect drivers from fatigue. Driving when tired is a contributing factor in between 16-20% of all road crashes in Victoria. If a driver nods off behind the wheel for just four seconds while travelling at a speed of 100 km/h, the bus will have gone 111 m without the driver being in control.
“TSV takes fatigue management seriously and, as part of its response to the learning from the investigation into the JST incident, is focusing on bus operator fatigue management systems. This includes increased attention on driver work diary records in both audit and infield compliance activities.
“The primary driver fatigue issue in the JST incident was the pressure applied to the driver to work too many shifts involving long-distance driving in a short period. Another factor was the lack of regular breaks during the journey.
“Fatigue management includes addressing bus drivers accumulated sleep debt stemming from adverse turn-around periods between shifts and irregularity of shifts.
“Fatigue isn’t only an issue on long distance drives, it’s still a risk for short trips. People generally don’t become fatigued from driving. Usually, they are already tired when they get behind the wheel from lack of sleep due to a number of contributing factors. Sleep cycles and altered work/life balance resulting from working variable shifts week to week can spill into driver fatigue levels.
“JST took a very serious risk by not having an adequate fatigue management system in place. Unfortunately for the two injured passengers it was a costly risk. The court heard that three years on from the incident, the injuries continue to cause pain and suffering.
“The bus industry is on notice that the regulator does not accept substandard fatigue management, and it will pursue non-compliant operators, through the courts if necessary, as has been the case of Joy Study and Tour Pty Ltd,” said Ms Faldon.
Research has shown that going without sleep for 17 hours in a 24-hour period has a similar impairing effect on driving performance as a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .05, which carries double the risk of a sober driver. Going without sleep for 24 hours has the same effect as a BAC of .1, which is double the legal BAC limit.