Industry nervous over moves to trial tachograph logbooks

By: Jason Whittaker

Mandatory tachographs will soon be trialled by Austroads in each state and territory as governments look to them as an

Mandatory tachographs will soon be trialled by Austroads in each state and territory as governments look to them as an alternative to electronic log books.

New South Wales Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal has already announced a trial of tachographs will begin next month. The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) will conduct the trial with Linfox.

The Northern Territory is expected to follow NSW, after Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Delia Lawrie flagged her support for mandatory tacographs
"I am an ardent advocate of these trucking black boxes that can improve safety and truck industry conditions for drivers," she says.
"I have met with truck industry representatives throughout the Territory to discuss this new technology.

Tachographs, which are currently used in Europe, can record vehicle speed, driving hours, fuel consumption, rest breaks, gear changes and idle times.

The move by state and territory jurisdictions to trial the device comes after trucking magnate Lindsay Fox gave a presentation to the Australian Transport Council (ATC) over the feasibility of the monitoring device.

Following the presentation, the ATC directed the National Transport Commission (NTC) to look at tachographs in conjunction with electronic work diaries as it sets about developing a reform package for nationally consistent reporting mechanisms.

The NTC’s General Manager of Communications and Stakeholder Relations Paul Sullivan says the reform package is due to be submitted to ministers in mid-2009. He says the NTC will not be recommending which technology to implement. Rather, he says the NTC will be specifically examining "what the box should do, not what it should look like".

The Austroad trial is already sparking debate within the trucking industry, with one source likening tachographs to fatigue and speed versions of the Intelligent Access Program (IAP). The source referred to Fox’s presentation as "selling us down the tube".

However, Australian Trucking Association NSW (ATA NSW) Manager Jill Lewis says tachographs may ease the workload of transport operators.

"The trial of the digital tachographs may have the possibility of making our reporting system so much easier," she says. "But it certainly needs to prove itself here in Australia."

Goed says there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding tachographs. He is concerned transport operators may be forced to foot the bill for installation during the trial.

"If the Government wants to progress this they probably should put some money up to have the things fitted," he says.

Those operating European models may incur little cost, as the vehicles are pre-wired and ready for tachograph units. However, operators with other vehicles will need to go to the hassle of installing new wires to run the monitoring device.

To offset this cost, Goed says there must be some benefit to the industry or operators are unlikely to support the move to tachographs.

He is calling for them to be linked to GPS navigation units so trucking operators can be made aware of accidents, traffic jams or closures that may affect travel routes.

"Let’s use the technology for the benefit of the industry," Goed says. "Why should governments have all the information and only be privy to it?"

He says there needs to a debate between the industry and governments over how to implement the device, such as when it will be introduced and what impact it will have on operators.

"We don’t know any of the details yet," he says. "We wouldn’t like to see it suddenly rammed through and then get stuck with a lemon."

While not opposed to the move, the sudden decision by the ATC to look at tachographs has caused confusion within the industry, according to Australian Road Train Association (ARTA) Chief Executive Duncan Bremner.

Due to a number of proposals and messages being thrown around, Bremner says operators are unsure as to what is expected of them or what measures will be introduced.

"There doesn’t seem to be consistent messages and this is another one that has kind of thrown a bit of confusion into the broader work environment," he says.

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