Mode Rail
Reference No. RR201800002
Date reported 23 January 2018
Concern title Fatigue risk management
Concern summary

Drivers operating beyond maximum hours under ‘driver only’ operations

Industry / Operation affected Rail: Freight
Concern subject type Rail: Policies & Procedures

Reporter's concern

The reporter has expressed a safety concern regarding drivers operating beyond the maximum 9 hours permitted under ‘Driver Only’ operations.

The reporter has advised that on occasion, when unanticipated delays are encountered and drivers are approaching their nine hour limit, arrangements are made for an additional driver or supervisor to board the train at the next available stop to enable the service to continue as a ‘Two Driver’ operation. This practice is used to extend the rostered hours the driver is permitted to work.

The reporter further advises that the operation is not permitted to change operation type part way through a service, and that the 9 hour limit must still apply if the service commenced as a ‘Driver only’ operation.  The reporter also expressed a concern that the drivers or supervisors boarding the train part way through the service are often not route qualified.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

As part of our crew scheduling and rostering processes work within the prescribed shift length limits for ‘driver only’ operations is a maximum 9-hour shift limit. A Weekly Train Plan is developed for all routes which identifies the hours, work and rest periods for all [Operator] drivers for specified routes including driver only operations routes.

[Operator] has a Fatigue Management Standard which describes how fatigue is managed across [the organisation]. The system sets the limits on working hours and work patterns along with controlled criteria. For exceptional occasions when those limits may be exceeded due to unanticipated delays, the appropriate level of risk controls will be implemented. Such exceptions will be monitored and action taken to control any risk.

To support the Standard, a number of fatigue management tools were released for trial late 2017. A Safe Worker Assessment Tool has been utilised as a management tool for those unforeseen circumstances when the shift limits may be exceeded.

In recognition of the fatigue obligations in Queensland pursuant to the Rail Safety National Law, [Operator] has revised the Fatigue Management Standard and Guide, which is currently in consultation. The revised standard recognises for Driver Only Operations the maximum shift length to be worked is 9 hours for freight train operations.

With the recent release of ONRSR’s Important Information for Train Drivers in Queensland- Interpretation of Queensland Specific Fatigue Requirements: FAQs (released 20 March 2018), [Operator] recognise that and has reinforced the requirement that: 

If a train driver commences a shift undertaking a driver only operation, and then undertakes a two driver operation for the latter part of his or her shift (or vice versa), then the one driver limit applies (i.e. 9 hours).

[Operator] has processes to ensure our drivers and second persons have the required qualifications and route competencies. [Operator] operates in line with ONRSR’s Important Information for Train Drivers in Queensland- Interpretation of Queensland Specific Fatigue Requirements: FAQs (released 20 March 2018): To be a qualified driver a person must be competent as per section 117 of the RSNL including:

  • classroom training (completion of the core competencies of TLI42615 Certificate IV in Train Driving or other as per the ONRSR Application of the AQF to Rail Safety Worker Competence Assessment Policy; and
  • practical training in traction and safe working.

Note: A second driver would still be recognised as being qualified provided the above training had been completed but may still be learning a route or undergoing an assessment.

[Operator] are 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 we are 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 (ONRSR) has considered the information provided in REPCON number RR20180002, including the safety concerns raised by the reporter and the response provided by the operator which includes reference to Queensland specific fatigue requirements.

Regarding the reporter’s safety concerns relating to drivers operating beyond the maximum nine hours permitted under ‘driver only’ operations, ONRSR can confirm a compliance inspection was undertaken of the operator’s compliance with Queensland specific fatigue requirements in October 2017 with no adverse findings.

In relation to the reporter’s concerns that the drivers or supervisors boarding a train part way through a ‘driver only’ operation are not route qualified, ONRSR has released a fact sheet on 20 March 2018 titled: Important Information for Train Drivers in Queensland - Interpretation of Queensland Specific Fatigue Requirements: FAQs. Item thirteen on this fact sheet notes that a second driver would still be recognised as being qualified provided the stated training had been completed when they may still be learning a route or undergoing an assessment.

Fatigue risk management and rail safety worker competencies are elements of a rail transport operator’s safety management system that are considered when scoping regulatory activities conducted by ONRSR as part of the ONRSR National Work Program.

Last update 05 August 2019