NTC rejects claims advance fatigue management is in doubt

By: Jason Whittaker

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has rejected claims by an industry source that the advanced fatigue management (AFM) system set

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has rejected claims by an industry source that the advanced fatigue management (AFM) system set to be introduced on September 30 is in "disarray" as transport ministers cling to parochial interests in favour of national consensus.

States and territories have been unable to reach agreement on the number of outer limit hours a driver can work under AFM (Victoria and NSW favour 15 hours, Queensland and South Australia 16 hours) or whether split-rest procedures should be introduced at a national level. AFM is one of three options available to operators under the new fatigue management laws (standard hours and basic fatigue management are the others).

The industry has already expressed concerns over the ministers' inability to reach an agreement.
"These competing ideologies over very minor things completely hamstring the industry when it goes to interstate issues," Australian Road Train Association (ARTA) Chief Executive Duncan Bremner says.
"If we had some national consistency in regulations, it would just make everyone’s life easier and we frankly struggle to understand how some of these arguments put forward by the various jurisdictions gain any traction."

Despite Bremner saying he has not heard of AFM being in "disarray", the source close to the situation claims the stalemate has forced the Fatigue Authorities Panel to be "scrapped" because it is made up of staff appointed by individual states, territories and the Federal Government.

The panel is so dysfunctional its structure and framework has been sent "back to the drawing board" in an effort to break the impasse, the source says.

"It doesn’t work because they don’t know how to facilitate it [AFM]," the source says.

"Effectively, various states are at various levels of an agreement as to the extent with which they are willing to go ahead with AFM."

As the panel is to specifically rule on AFM applications, the September 30 deadline for the rollout of the new fatigue management regime is in jeopardy, the source says.

Transport operators are due to submit applications to their relevant state department, which will then forward the application to the panel if the operator needs to cross state borders.

However, General Manager of Communications and Stakeholder Relations at the NTC, Paul Sullivan, says the government body is still operating to the September deadline. He has dismissed the claims made by the industry source as "rubbish".

"That is news to us. We don’t know anything about that [the scrapping of the panel]," he says.

Despite ATN being told a package was sent to the Australian Transport Council (ATC) urging the ministers to clarify the operation of the panel, Sullivan says it contained amendments for the introduction of the Fatigue Authorities Panel legislation.

"There was an amendments package put through which included the terms of reference for the Fatigue Authorities Panel," he says.

"If the industry thinks that was a shemozzle that is their point of view."

Sullivan says it is common knowledge there is already disagreement between various jurisdictions regarding outer limits and split-rest measures.

"The AFM applications that go forward will just need to take that into account," he says.

The NTC, however, is hopeful jurisdictions will reach national consensus.

"We would hope the states will take that advice and endorse that application if that is what the advice says," Sullivan says. "But ultimately states and territories have their sovereign right to decide who does what on their road network."

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