Reference number
Date reported
Published date
Affected operation/industry
Concern summary

Concern regarding staffing shortages resulting in increased potential of fatigue for drivers.

Reporter's deidentified concern

The reporter advises that there has been a large reduction of drivers in recent times, resulting in operational pressures being placed on remaining drivers. The reporter provided the following examples to support their concerns:

To mitigate the risk of fatigue related incidents, drivers are ordinarily permitted to work up to 12 hours on safety critical tasks as long as appropriate risk controls are in place. One of these risk controls being the Communications Based Signalling (CBS). However, when the CBS fails and the system downgrades to paper – manual moving authorities, the company’s procedures dictate that fatigue needs to be better managed, and as such, drivers are limited to 10 hours on safety critical tasks. When drivers have queried the requirement to end safety critical tasks at 10 hours during manual movement authorities, drivers have been advised there is no requirement to stop at 10 hours and are instructed to continue.

In addition, the current procedure states that drivers must take a 40 minute break in a 12 hour shift; however, if operational requirements exist, the 40 minute break does not have to be taken. The reporter states that on numerous occasions, drivers are working 12 hours straight without a break. On one occasion when a driver requested when he could take his break, he was advised that the ‘job can’t stop for you to take a break’.

Whether the above procedures are regulated or are the company’s own procedures, the reporter believes the minimum required hours are in place as they have been determined the minimum requirement to mitigate fatigue. When these procedures are routinely not adhered to, for prolonged periods, it is obvious that the potential for a fatigue related incident increase.

Named party's response

The operator did not respond to the REPCON.

Regulator's response

ONRSR can confirm it has received ATSB REPCON report number RR202100061 regarding concerns of staff shortages and potential driver fatigue at [Operator]. ONRSR has recently conducted an audit of the [Operator] Fatigue Risk Management plan. ONRSR is satisfied that the risks to rail safety created by fatigue have been assessed and identified, and that controls are in place.