Fatigue management laws will fail: TWU

By: Jason Whittaker

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has hit out at looming fatigue management laws, arguing they will actually contribute to fatigue-related

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has hit out at looming fatigue management laws, arguing they will actually contribute to fatigue-related deaths and be undermined by "crooks and scoundrels" who will exploit the measures.

Speaking exclusively to ATN during the union’s 2008 Federal Council meeting, TWU Queensland Branch Secretary Hughie Williams says more drivers will die as a result of advanced fatigue management (AFM) measures which permit a person to drive for 16 hours. He says by legislating to allow people to drive for a long period of time, governments will increase the risk of driver fatigue.

Although companies and drivers must submit to an accreditation process before being allowed to operate udner AFM, Williams questions the stringency of the program, saying he would like to be there when the training takes place to see how effective it will be.

Williams says big-name retailers already forcing people to drive fatigued will sign up to the new measures to exploit the16-hour rule rather than play an active role in reducing fatigue-related accidents.

"Some companies who were ratifying with fatigue management were some of the biggest crooks and scoundrels in the industry," he says.

"We have got some real terrible employers out there who are going to exploit those extra hours and push drivers even more. We’ll probably have more people getting killed."

While declining to name the companies, Williams says "everybody knows who I am talking about".

Although chain of responsibility measures aim to expose those who force drivers to breach fatigue laws, Williams says a recent court case in which a judge threw out some 1,000 chain of responsibility charges against Turner’s Transport shows the measures are insufficient.

He says the laws, to be introduced on September 29, fail to address one of the root causes of fatigue-related accidents, that being pay rates. As long as there is no decent rate of pay for owner-drivers many will be forced to exploit the 16-hour rule legally or illegally just to make ends meet, Williams claims.

"Until you put safe rates of pay in place, you are going to have people killing themselves forever and all time," he says.

"The more hours people drive the more people will be killed. And it is no good being an owner-driver battling to pay your truck off simply by driving long hours and killing yourself."

As such, the TWU is pushing for the Rudd Government to implement a national pay system for owner-drivers that includes a guaranteed rate of pay.

During the Federal Council, TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon announced a $500,000 Safe Rates and Conditions campaign would begin to lobby the Government to implement a national pay system.

The TWU's criticism of fatigue management laws came as the Queensland Parliament passed the amended Transport Legislation Act to include fatigue management and driving hour measures under the model bill proposed by the National Transport Commission (NTC).

However, the amendments do stray from the national model proposed, meaning Queensland will be the only state to enforce the use of work diaries outside a 200km raidus of the business involved as opposed to 100km the NTC proposed.

The Government has also implemented its own penalty points model for driving offences.

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