National regulator guarantees new fatigue scheme is on the way for the livestock transport sector
A new fatigue management scheme tailored toward the livestock transport industry will be introduced by the end of 2014, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has confirmed.
The agency used this year’s Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) conference to announce livestock and rural transporters will be able to schedule driver rosters over 14 days and that work is now underway on the creation of another two fatigue management modules.
The roster scheme, called ‘fortnightly cycles’, is designed to cater for the long distances and distinct operating requirements livestock transporters grapples with.
Drivers will be able to work for up to 12 consecutive days as long as they finish all work before midnight and have an increased number of short breaks from driving.
“We can bring you a 14 day roster with one catch: you will have to agree not to be driving after midnight,” NHVR general manager Philip Halton told the ALRTA conference in Adelaide.
“For a fair number of blokes I think that’s straight forward. There will be a couple of people that won’t suit.”
Halton says another scheme, called ‘long rural runs’, is in the pipeline and will cater for rural operators that need to run long distances from time to time.
“The kind of task that I’m thinking about is running out of the Channel Country in western Queensland where you’re fully laden with six decks on and you have to get to the water to meet a ship,” Halton says.
The scheme will allow drivers to work one long day and one short day before having a day off to recover, but must first get approval from fatigue management experts.
“We will be able, we expect, to accommodate that run. It’s subject to the fatigue professors signing off but we are working hell for leather on that right now,” Halton says.
Halton suggested the third scheme, dubbed ‘rural time bank’, will be similar to what is currently in place in Western Australia.
In a document handed out to conference attendees, the NHVR states the scheme is designed for rural operators that find it too hard to keep to rigid or inflexible schedules.
It, too, must receive approval from fatigue experts before being introduced but Halton says the regulator is “very optimistic” about its prospects.
“We have the flexibility…to allow you, instead of having to count on a 24-hour cycle to count on a longer cycle and to average out your time over a period of days,” he says.
“Some of you are probably familiar with another fatigue scheme which covers a large part of rural Australia a little to the west of where we are standing. It might be something that looks quite similar to that. It’s not yet done, it’s subject to the fatigue professors.”
Halton did not detail all the specifics of each of the three fatigue modules during his speech at the ALRTA conference, but the NHVR has requested transport operators lodge an expression of interest if they are keen to use a 14-day roster.
The NHVR says the feedback will be used to plan the resources needed to implement the scheme, check if it is practical and workable and to develop support tools to help companies use it.
Furthermore, the NHVR has asked operators to approach it if they are willing to be interviewed by fatigue management experts about the other two modules.
As part of its role, the NHVR is allowed to issue flexible fatigue management arrangements to suit the needs of specific transport sectors, such as the three modules aimed at rural and livestock transporters.
The NHVR gained the power as part of changes made to fatigue laws during the development of national heavy vehicle regulations.
Previously, companies that felt standard hours of basic fatigue management (BFM) did not suit their needs had to turn to the advanced fatigue management (AFM) scheme.
AFM allowed operators to develop their own fatigue management system but it was incredibly expensive and complex. Governments decided to overhaul the regime when national regulations began.
Under the changes, the NHVR can issue specific templates that operators can use instead of having to build their own plans from scratch.
The ‘fortnightly cycles’, the ‘long rural runs’ and the ‘rural time bank’ schemes are the first templates to be announced since the NHVR began full operations in February.
Photography: Brad Gardner