The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) recently released regulatory advice on the use of heavy vehicle safety technology and telematics, providing useful tips on how to effectively harness such technology to improve the safety of heavy vehicle operations.

What is safety technology?

Safety technology is any electronic device or safety intervention system designed to improve heavy vehicle safety. Common uses include rollover prevention, collision detection and avoidance, and the provision of safety data that can be acted upon.

What is telematics?

Telematics is the data captured by onboard safety (or general) technology, which is either broadcast to the driver or operator in real-time, or can be downloaded and reviewed at a later time.

What are some common uses of safety technology and telematics?

From a business perspective, telematics are most often used to optimise efficiency. For example, real-time GPS monitoring of heavy vehicle fleets to plan job allocation for maximised productivity or analysing data on heavy vehicle driving to improve maintenance schedules and driver behaviour.

From a safety perspective, safety technologies are most often used to remove or minimise certain risks from heavy vehicle operations. For example, roll stability control (RSC) is designed to avoid vehicle rollover by dynamically assessing vehicle characteristics and performance. RSC detects when a vehicle's rollover tolerance is likely to be exceeded and intervenes to slow a vehicle down before that point. Other examples include the use of GPS to monitor driver speed and intervene in the event of speeding and electronic work diaries to monitor driver work and rest times.

How can safety technology and telematics help you?

Heavy vehicle transport is one of the most dangerous industries in Australia.

Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), parties in the chain of responsibility (CoR) must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety of their transport activities. Given the known risk profile, parties in the CoR can use safety technologies and telematics to help remove or reduce risks (such as rollovers, through the use of RSC) or monitor and manage vehicle and driver risks (such as required maintenance or unsafe driver behaviour). Many safety technology and telematics platforms are able to assess the data generated and alert you when problems arise that require your attention and action.

The use of such technology can help you both manage and respond to transport risks - which is part of your primary safety duty under the HVNL.

Why aren't businesses getting the most from safety technology and telematics?

Safety technology and telematics systems often allow users to set the parameters around when the system will alert them or to activate or deactivate certain features - similar to how drivers can set their cruise control or turn off automatic brake assist.

In many instances, businesses dial down the alert parameters so that they are only alerted to the most significant risks, which can mean that they fail to detect and act on many less severe but still problematic issues. Similarly, many businesses deactivate some of the features of such technology. Reasons vary from lack of confidence in how to use the technology to not wanting to receive a multitude of safety alerts. Regardless of the reasons, businesses that do this are depriving themselves of the full utility of such technology and are not getting the full benefits they paid for.

In addition, if a technology system is only activated in a restricted mode of operation, it may be suggested by the NHVR that the operator is depriving themselves of vital safety information, failing to identify safety issues and failing to respond to them, which can breach the requirements of the HVNL.

If your business is going to invest in safety technology and telematics, make sure that you use it to its full potential and value so that it works for you and not against you.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.