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Hannifey scores breakthrough on BFM

Crusading truck driver Rod Hannifey succeeds in getting the NTC to extend consultation on proposed changes to fatigue management

By Brad Gardner | October 1, 2010

Crusading truck driver Rod Hannifey has scored a breakthrough with the National Transport Commission after convincing it to extend the consultation period on proposed changes to basic fatigue management law.

Hannifey complained to the NTC last month after it issued a short timeframe for operators and drivers to respond to a discussion paper on BFM.

Known for his advocacy of the industry and the blue reflector campaign, Hannifey urged the agency to give drivers more time to respond because many would not be made aware of the paper before the October 8 deadline.

Following a 45 minute conversation with the NTC in which Hannifey expressed disappointment with it, the consultation period has been extended to October 23.

“The NTC is keen to get as much stakeholder feedback on the discussion paper as possible, including from owner drivers,” a spokeswoman says.

Hannifey says the release of the paper was not accompanied by a communication campaign to inform drivers about the proposed changes, such as information bulletins or flyers posted in roadhouses.

He says the release of the paper missed the deadline of trade publications, limiting the ability of drivers to find out about the NTC’s proposals.

Hannifey is now using radio and social networking sites to urge drivers to have their say, but adds that many might be cynical of the consultation process because the NTC has a history of ignoring industry concerns.

“There’s a feeling they won’t listen and there’s times when I hold that view,” Hannifey says.

He says he has in the past written submissions and received little feedback or very little response from the NTC.

During his conversation with the agency, Hannifey told it: “You listen to two fatigue experts instead of listening to 5000 drivers.”

The NTC paper proposes scrapping the mandatory 24-hour break after 84 hours of work and replacing it with a 48-hour break after 144 hours or 12 days of work.

The change is designed to give businesses more flexibility and drivers more time to spend with their family.

Hannifey says it should be broken into two 24-hour breaks so drivers can choose when to take a day off.

“It’s all about flexibility. They put you in a box,” he says of the fatigue laws.

The paper proposes giving drivers the opportunity to split the mandatory seven-hour rest break in any 24-hour period into two blocks in case they cannot find a suitable spot to have a sustained rest.

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

Hannifey says drivers should be free to split the rest how they want so they can adjust their sleep period according to how they feel and whether there is a suitable area to pull over.

The NTC also recommends amending the definition of ‘night rest’ so the period runs from 9pm to 9am instead of 10pm to 8am to allow regional and livestock carriers to start work earlier.

Hannifey says the NTC must listen to drivers on the road because laws are being imposed on them by people with no experience in the trucking industry.

“I don’t know anyone [new] in the NTC at all who has spent time in a truck,” Hannifey says.

“How many of them have to sleep in a truck, be able to find somewhere to sleep, find shade and then find somewhere that has a toilet or go and buy a meal?

“I’m as frustrated as hell.”

Citing the concerns made to him by sections of the industry, Hannifey says bureaucrats are making it hard for truck drivers to do their job. He says drivers just want flexibility and to work according to their own body clock.

“Those people need to listen more to our people and give us a fair go,” he says of the NTC.

Clarification: The original comment, “I don’t know anyone in the NTC at all who has spent time in a truck” refers to new staff at the National Transport Commission. The NTC has previously made available staff to travel with Hannifey.

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