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Gay hopeful extra fatigue conditions won’t be needed

NSW roads minister says he hopes he won’t need to impose extra requirements on AFM-accredited companies once national regulations begin

By Brad Gardner |September 18, 2013

The NSW Government has expressed hope it will not have to enforce extra conditions on trucking firms operating under a soon-to-be-introduced fatigue management scheme.

In introducing the Heavy Vehicle (Adoption of National Law) Amendment Bill in the Legislative Council for debate, Roads Minister Duncan Gay indicated he will not need to impose himself on the accreditation process for the new advanced fatigue management (AFM) module.

The scheme will begin once national heavy vehicle regulations take effect. The Bill permits AFM-accredited truck operators and drivers to work up to 15.5 hours in NSW, in line with other jurisdictions.

However, it also empowers the roads minister to impose requirements on operators beyond those that fatigue experts responsible for AFM accreditation may stipulate.

“I am not expecting to have much work at all in this area. I am certainly hoping I do not,” Gay says.

NSW believes the provision is necessary due to the large amount of truck traffic on its roads and that the new fatigue scheme has not been trialled.

Gay adds that NSW will consider removing the ability to impose extra conditions if the scheme demonstrates it can effectively manage driver fatigue.

“I would certainly be eager to do that,” he says.

Gay adds that NSW officials will work closely with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to assess AFM applications as they are submitted.

“It is expected that the NSW minister would exercise his or her ability to apply additional conditions only in those circumstances when an accreditation approved by the national regulator is considered to be inappropriate or unsafe.”

Furthermore, Gay says NSW will adopt a cooperative approach on route access applications. He says councils own and manage about 165,000km of the 185,000km of road in NSW, with the remaining 20,000km the responsibility of the State Government.

“The national regulator has a big job ahead in coordinating industry applications across councils, but rest assured the NSW Government will assist in this process,” Gay says.

The Bill, which has passed the Legislative Assembly, also ensures NSW will retain existing regulations and productivity initiatives.

Gay made particular mention of the provision on speed limiters, which declares a truck is not speed limiter compliant if it is caught travelling at or above 115km/h. It also holds operators directly responsible.

“Two weekends ago, three Victorian B-double trucks were caught doing speeds in excess of 120km/h on the Newell Highway in central west NSW,” Gay says.

“With speeding still such an issue, it is understandable why the NSW Bill has slightly different provisions to the national law. Let us not forget that NSW is the ‘through state’ for the eastern seaboard of Australia.”

Gay will also lobby other jurisdictions to follow NSW and Victoria’s lead in maintaining an independent power to prosecute once the NHVR is fully up and running.

“Given that the NSW provision is modelled exactly on the one found in the Victorian application law, and to assist in sorting out a national position, I have undertaken to raise the issue at the forthcoming national transport ministers council meeting known as the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI).”

The Opposition and the Greens have both supported the Bill, but the Opposition wants a sunset clause or a formal review of fatigue management provisions once the regulator becomes a fully functioning body.

It is currently limited to operating in Queensland. The NHVR was due to begin full operations on October 1 but it has now ruled that out in a move that marks a fourth failed start date for the agency.

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