Mode Rail
Reference No. RR201700009
Date reported 22 May 2017
Concern title Fatigue due to the small number of driver’s qualified to design an efficient roster
Concern summary

The concern related to the number of drivers with sufficient qualifications to effectively design a roster which does not induce fatigue in the driver population.

Industry / Operation affected Rail: Freight
Concern subject type Rail: Operations

Reporter's concern

The reporter expressed a safety concern related to the fatigue experienced by drivers working for [operator].

The reporter advised that [operator] do not have sufficient numbers of drivers to efficiently design the roster. This means that the actual duties crews do, bear very little resemblance to the duty they were rostered to do and the actual duties are not in accordance with the fatigue management policy.

Examples of the changes are:

  • start and finish times change significantly from rostered times
  • required to work on days rostered off when their fatigue score using the Fatigue Assessment Tool by InterDynamics (FAID) is often around 90 and sometimes over 100
  • minimal time off between shifts
  • shifts extended to 10 hours and frequently 11 hours.

Reporter comment: [Operator’s] attitude to rostering is causing great angst and high levels of fatigue amongst drivers.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

In relation to those concerns, [operator] responds as follows:

  • We believe that there is sufficient crew to effectively develop rosters required for the task being delivered. [Operator] takes fatigue provisions very seriously and rosters are developed in line with these provisions. We design rosters in consultation with our train crew to best meet the needs of the business. Due to the nature of the bulk business where over 80% of task relates to the transport of highly variable export grain, there is often a requirement to request changes to tasks from our train crew. These requests are only done if such changes are safe and in line with responsibilities under the employees’ enterprise agreement
  • Drivers working within the bulk rail business have defined maximum hours of work and minimum hours of recovery (between shifts) stipulated in the rostering guidelines within their enterprise agreement. These rules are also built into the live rostering system. The live rostering system does not allow a worker to be rostered for a shift without achieving the mandatory minimum time between shifts. In addition to minimum time between individual shifts, a worker cannot work in excess of 11 consecutive shifts without a mandatory rest day off. Mandatory rest days must conform to the provisions of a rostered day off (e.g. minimum of 32 hours duration between the finish of the last shift and the commencement of the next shift, unless otherwise agreed between [operator] and the affected employee. Where two (2) off rostered days are rostered consecutively then the maximum duration shall be no fewer than 48 hours between the finish of the last shift and the commencement of the next shift).
  • [Operator] uses InterDynamics FAID Fatigue Assessment Tool (FAID) to evaluate a roster for sleep opportunity; however, this is only one aspect of a roster that is considered for fatigue potential. We also evaluate different roster and shift pattern scenarios with a view to continually improving rosters to reduce, as much as possible, any risks associated with fatigue. At no time do we roster in excess of 100 FAID.
  • As noted above, drivers working within the bulk rail business have defined maximum hours of work and minimum hours of recovery (between shifts) stipulated in the rostering guidelines within their enterprise agreement. These rules are also built into the live rostering system. The live rostering system does not allow a worker to be rostered for a shift without achieving the mandatory minimum time between shifts. In addition to minimum time between individual shifts, a worker cannot work in excess of 11 consecutive shifts without a mandatory rest day off. Mandatory rest days must conform to the provisions of a rostered day off (e.g. minimum of 32hrs duration between the finish of the last shift and the commencement of the next shift, unless otherwise agreed between [operator] and the affected Employee. Where two (2) rostered days off are rostered consecutively then the maximum duration shall be no fewer than 48 hours between the finish of the last shift and the commencement of the next shift).
  • Extensions of shift from 10 to 11 hours are only done in line with conditions stipulated within the employees’ enterprise agreement as well as that of our fatigue management and risk management principles.
  • We have been working closely with ONRSR over the past 12 months to upgrade and improve how the business manages fatigue. Current activities include a revised national fatigue management standard, development of business-level fatigue risk assessments and subsequent fatigue risk management programs, review and re-write of mandatory fatigue management training courses.

[Operator] is invested in the continuous improvement of the health, safety and fatigue standards across the business. The business recognises that worker fatigue provides a real and timely risk to our people and is taking steps to continually improve our fatigue management system and supportive tools and strategies. We have mechanisms in place to support this process including health and safety committees, hazard reporting process, health and safety representatives, and rostering committees.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator has reviewed the report, Australian Transport Safety Bureau Reference Number RR201700009, including the response provided by the operator.

As a rail transport operator ('RTO'), the [operator] is required to comply with the fatigue management provisions of the Rail Safety National Law (RSNL) including the duty to ensure rail safety workers (train drivers included) do not carry out work while fatigued or if they become so impaired (Section 52(d) Duties of rail transport operators - Rail Safety National Law (RSNL)).

Additionally, the RSNL requires RTOs to prepare and implement a fatigue risk management program (FRMP), which includes the prescribed requirements to identify, assess, control and monitor fatigue risks, provide appropriate education and training, and report breaches of work scheduling practices set out in the RTO's FRMP (Section 116 of the RSNL, and Regulation 29(1 ),29(2),29(3) and 57(1 )(b )(xv) respectively). In response to the report, ONRSR conducted a compliance inspection at [operator’s] [location] office on 7 July 2017 (‘CI’).

As part of the CI, ONRSR obtained from the operator copies of the Fatigue Management Safety Standard, Bulk Service Bulk Rail [states] Fatigue Risk Management Procedure, the Roster Code from the operator’s Bulk Rail Enterprise Agreement 2013, and reported breaches of work scheduling practices set out in the RTO's FRMP, all of which form part of the operator’s FRMP. ONRSR's initial assessment of these documents found them to be compliant with the requirements of the RSNL.

To assess the operator's compliance with their FRMP, ONRSR has requested they provide additional documents including four (4) months of actual times staff worked, the daily roster, the master roster, and the fatigue index. While the operator has supplied several of these documents, ONRSR is awaiting others.

Once these outstanding documents have been received, ONRSR will be able to assess whether or not the operator continues to comply with the FRMP and, if necessary, take regulatory action should non-compliance be identified.

Last update 12 July 2018