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Extend bus fatigue laws to trucking: NatRoad

NatRoad wants fatigue laws for bus industry extended to give truck drivers the opportunity to store rest days

By Brad Gardner | October 5, 2010

Governments should consider extending the bus industry’s fatigue management laws to the trucking sector so drivers can store rest days, employer group NatRoad says.

NatRoad CEO Bernie Belacic has written to the National Transport Commission urging reform of the standard hours scheme for trucking.

Truck drivers using the scheme are limited to 12-hour workdays and must have a 24-hour break after seven days or 72 hours of work.

Bus drivers working under standard hours can store their rest days for 28 days or after 288 hours of work, at which point they take four consecutive 24-hour breaks.

It applies to bus drivers who work low hours and take six consecutive rests between 10pm and 8am in a seven-day period.

“We ask that a standard hours option for the bus and coach sector be considered for the trucking industry,” Belacic writes.

“As you know, this option permits days off to be ‘banked’ over 28 days for low risk bus operations. This variation can be used where night work and total hours are low, which would apply to some truck drivers.”

Belacic also reiterated NatRoad’s support for changes to the basic fatigue management scheme (BFM), which is being reviewed by the NTC following concerns raised by the trucking industry.

NatRoad wants the 24-hour rest requirement after 84 hours of work replaced with a provision allowing drivers to take a 48-hour break within a 14-day period (144 hours of work).

While fatigue experts have raised concerns about splitting rest breaks, NatRoad says drivers should have the right to separate them into two blocks in case they cannot find a suitable area to have a sustained rest.

Currently, drivers can only use a split rest as a defence if they are accused of breaking fatigue management requirements. Furthermore, the break can only be split into one six-hour and one or more two-hour rests.

“Pending developments in this debate, we urge that the current BFM split rest hours requirements now available only as a legal defence, are legislatively recognised to be as of right. This would avoid the need for court actions, which are usually expensive and time consuming,” Belacic says.

He has supported changes to the definition of a night rest, which currently runs from 10pm to 8am. The NTC recommends amending it run from 9pm to 9am.

Drivers are required to rest for at least seven continuous hours during the 10pm to 8am period, meaning 5am is the earliest they can begin work.

Regional and livestock carriers want the period pushed back to 9pm so they can start work at 4am.

“Critics argue that drivers (particularly in rural areas) have become accustomed to going to bed early and getting up early and that the 10pm to 8am window places unreasonable limits on their capacity to start early whenever they deem necessary,” the NTC says.

It decided to extend the consultation period on proposed changes to BFM to October 23 after complaints from truck driver Rod Hannifey that drivers were not given enough opportunity to have their say.

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