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Don’t repeat fatigue mistakes with EWD policy: TCS

Consultancy firm says governments should not take the same approach to electronic work diaries as they did with fatigue laws

By Brad Gardner | December 7, 2010

Governments should not take the same approach to electronic work diaries as they did with the introduction of fatigue management laws, Transport Consultancy Solutions says.

Responding to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) draft policy paper on a voluntary scheme for electronic monitoring TCS wants decision makers to conduct an industry-wide survey to allow all stakeholders to provide input on the issue.

Under the NTC’s proposal, transporters will have the option of switching to certified electronic work diaries or continuing with existing paper-based reporting to comply with fatigue management obligations.

“No thought or consideration was given as to how the regulations would impact on a transport company’s ability to recoup the increased operating costs that those measures bring,” TCS says of fatigue management laws introduced in 2008.

“Therefore it is critical to plan for what impact electronic work diaries and GPS monitoring will have not only on transport operators but drivers and owner-drivers as well.”

TCS says governments must consider how minor indiscretions will be dealt with, such as when drivers inadvertently exceed the speed limit for a brief time while travelling down a hill or if they are prevented from taking a regulated break due to a lack of rest areas.

“These would be minor indiscretions that really have no impact on safety but would adversely affect a driver if no tolerance was given to him,” TCS says.

The consultancy firm has also questioned the NTC’s recommendation for printers to be installed in trucks to give roadside enforcement officers hard copies of data.

It labels the proposal “last century thinking” because data can now be transferred wirelessly.

TCS claims fitting a printer will defeat the purpose of electronic data capture and if governments want printouts for roadside officers then they should install equipment in their vehicles.

According to TCS, electronic work diaries for fatigue management must be considered alongside reforms to remuneration methods currently being investigated by the Federal Government.

Referring to academic studies, TCS says there is evidence showing low rates of pay force drivers to work long hours.

The NTC says its draft paper on electronic work diaries was developed in consultation with industry and government.

NTC manager Dr Jeff Potter says the proposal for printers will be trialled during a pilot study on electronic diaries being run in NSW.

He says many transport operators already use electronic monitoring but must also use paper diaries because there are currently no regulatory standards governing electronic systems.

“The proposed policy paper gives operators the flexibility to continue with the current paper-based system or use electronic work diaries while still meeting regulatory standards,” he says.

Stakeholders have been given until December 10 to respond to the draft policy paper.

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