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Rural trucking faces electronic diaries issues

The technology may not fit in with country and outback realities, MP says


Electronic work diaries could potentially expose rural truck drivers to significant fines due to the daily challenges they face, a Queensland Government MP has warned.

Jim Pearce believes the diaries may not fit in well with the realities of rural trucking, which can involve flooded roads and long trips between rest areas on a regular basis.

The Queensland Government last week passed legislation permitting the use of the diaries.  

The devices record compliance with rest and work requirements in one-minute intervals, which Pearce believes may be a serious problem for rural drivers.

“While this technology is important to best practice heavy vehicle movements, I am having trouble working out what the impact will be on heavy vehicle users in regional and rural Queensland where there are long distances between approved parking areas where a driver can stop for a period of time and meet the requirements of a rest period,” Pearce says.

“It concerns me that you can have seasonal conditions which could mean that a driver has to enter areas where roads are flooded or are about to be flooded.”

Pearce, whose electorate of Mirani spans Mackay to Rockhampton and takes in mining towns and the state’s sugar industry, says drivers entering flooded areas may face 40 minute delays.

He adds that a lack of rest areas means drivers may need to travel more kilometres than permitted to find a suitable spot to pull over.

“You would not want the law enforcers out there taking advantage of drivers who are trying to do the right thing, trying to meet all the requirements but for other reasons are unable to stop driving when they are supposed to,” he says.

“I remain somewhat concerned that drivers may be dealt with harshly because they have made a common-sense decision to go that extra mile in the interest of being able to continue the trip at a later time or to find a safe area to pull off the road.”

Queensland transport minister Jackie Trad says there is a measure in place for drivers who cannot pull over when required to rest.

“I can confirm absolutely to the member for Mirani that, under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, if there is nowhere safe for drivers of a heavy vehicle to pull up and rest there will be a defence for short rest break offences,” Trad says.

It means a driver who cannot find somewhere to take a short rest when required can take the break at the next suitable location as long as it is within 45 minutes travelling distance.

Although policy makers have stressed that the diaries, when introduced, will be voluntary, Pearce believes governments will eventually make them mandatory.

“I have a little bet that sometime into the future when they see that it is working it will probably be made compulsory. It is good that we are not looking to do that until it has been proven,” he says.

Pearce’s fellow Queensland MP Ian Rickuss has echoed similar concerns about truck drivers being penalised for minor fatigue management offences. 

Trad says EWDs will help the trucking industry meet its fatigue management obligations while helping reduce red tape.


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