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Dangerous paperwork boosts fatigue risk

Industry veterans hope that drivers having to wait around for paperwork after unloading is captured by upcoming chain of responsibility improvements


It’s one of the most frustrating and dangerous practices of some customers of the Australian trucking industry.

Long distance drivers having to wait – sometimes for hours – for the paperwork to be checked off after they have unloaded.

Unnecessary waiting time as a weak link in the chain of responsibility came up at this year’s ATA Technical and Maintenance Conference in Melbourne, sponsored by Paccar.

Kel Baxter is a bulk agribusiness trucking operator from Berrigan in southern NSW, and is also chair of the Australian Trucking Association’s Industry Technical Council.

During a session on fatigue at the TMC, Baxter said the issue can’t be discussed without looking at the behaviour of customers.

He lamented “the amount of times the truck driver is treated like a second priority by the consignors and consignees”, and how long they are kept waiting.

“A lot of timeslots have come in now, but we find they’re just a guide,” Baxter says.

For example in the grain game: “They’re loading a truck and suddenly a train turns up and they drop all the trucks and load the train.

“Yesterday, a driver was sitting around for six or seven hours. Then they’ll drive in the night when they would have had daylight driving.”

Baxter related an earlier experience involving fridge vans, which were loaded in Melbourne and bound for Brisbane.

“They’ll start ringing from the other end: ‘Where are you, where are you?’. Well we were six hours late leaving Melbourne: ‘That’s not my problem’. And then when you get there, we were unloaded and criticised, then they would take three hours to give the paperwork back to us – when we didn’t even load the freight in the van – before we could proceed with the next job.

“That is I think part of this new national [chain of responsibility] law that’s coming in, that it will look at not just post-incidents but the potential to cause incidents. That’s the way I read that.”

Compliance auditor and former operator Ian Pendered from NSW backed Baxter up, with an anecdote involving a sealed-up tautliner trailer coming out of a Melbourne groceries DC.

“The driver had a 5 o’clock timeslot, he’d been on the dock at 5 o’clock, he’s been unloaded, and they’ve turned around and held him there while they’ve counted every bloody carton and every pallet … The fatigue issue with the chain stores is massive.”

In a previous session Baxter said: “I think slowly but surely chain of responsibility is starting to become of interest to consignors and consignees.”

He complimented NSW Road and Maritime Services for having a role in that: “They’ve been making a few visits to DCs and other places that hold drivers up for a long time and end up with fatigue issues.”

Check out the full feature in an upcoming issue of ATN. Subscribe here


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