Fitness for Work

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Driving a heavy vehicle is a complex task that requires perception, good judgement, responsiveness and reasonable physical capability. Drivers have additional demands in relation to transporting goods safely and meeting work schedules.

While the driver licensing system may provide some assurance of fitness to drive, having a licence is not enough.  A person’s ability to drive safely is influenced by various factors particularly fatigue, drug and alcohol use, illness and injury and needs to be assessed on an ongoing basis.

Assessing fitness for work

A person’s fitness for work may be assessed:

  • as part of deciding their suitability for employment
  • as part of an alcohol or other drug testing program
  • as part of a fatigue monitoring program
  • when the person is involved in a near-miss or incident at work
  • if the person has suffered an injury or illness to determine if they are fit to return to work.

Drivers need to be certified as being fit to drive a heavy vehicle by a medical practitioner according to the Assessing Fitness to Drive guidelines by Austroads.

The examination should include assessment of sleep disorders and should be conducted at least once every three years for drivers aged 49 or under, and yearly for drivers aged 50 or over. Any medical advice for drivers must be considered when assigning duties.

Transport operators should:

  • Develop procedures for drivers to assess their fitness for duty before commencing and during work and to notify the operator if they are unfit for duty
  • Facilitate open and honest communication with workers, including a no-blame system that encourages drivers to stop driving if they need to
  • Provide training to drivers, supervisors and schedulers on fatigue management and other health issues that may impact on the driving task
  • Ensure confidentiality is maintained regarding personal and health information

Fatigue

Driver fatigue is a major safety hazard for the road transport industry. The main causes of fatigue are not enough sleep including poor quality sleep, driving at night and working or being awake for a long time.

Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, operators and other parties in the supply chain must ensure their business practices, including contracts and agreements, do not cause drivers to breach regulated work and rest hours or drive while impaired by fatigue.

A driver of a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle must comply with regulated work and rest hours. Further information about fatigue management is available here.

Drugs and alcohol

Operators should implement a drug and alcohol policy that outlines what you expect from your workers. The policy should include:

  • Rules relating to the use of drugs and alcohol, e.g. a zero-tolerance approach where no person is to start work, remain at work or return to work if they are affected by drugs and/or alcohol
  • Procedures for drug and alcohol testing
  • Roles and responsibilities of managers and other staff
  • Provision of education and information
  • Availability of counseling and support programs
  • The consequences of breaching the policy, e.g. disciplinary action.

Medical conditions

A range of medical conditions, as well as treatments, may impair a person’s ability to undertake the driving task safely. Common examples include:

  • Blackouts
  • Sleep disorders
  • Vision problems
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Heart disease

Drivers should inform transport operators of any conditions that could affect their ability to drive and may also need to notify the state or territory driver licensing authority.