NatRoad turns up the heat on governments over rest areas

By: Jason Whittaker

Pressure is mounting on governments to invest more in rest areas as well as overhaul regulations dictating where truck drivers

Pressure is mounting on governments to invest more in rest areas as well as overhaul regulations dictating where truck drivers can rest before new fatigue management laws are introduced.

NatRoad Chief Executive Bernie Belacic has written to Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese calling for the abolishment of a restriction that prohibits heavy vehicle drivers from parking on the side of the road in built up areas for more than one hour.

Failure to change this regulation, Belacic writes, will mean drivers may not be able to comply with new rest periods stipulated in fatigue regulations to be introduced on September 30.

"Given that no matter what safe driving plans are in place, to[o] often it is either illegal or physically impossible to stop a heavy vehicle safely in compliance with fatigue obligations on most freight routes," he says.

Furthermore, failure to reform the restriction will also raise serious questions over duty of care obligations, according to Belacic, because fatigued drivers will be forced to continue operating.
"NatRoad understands that for a minority within [the] community this may not be desirable outcome, however it is a significantly safer outcome than having tired drivers at the wheel in search of somewhere to pull over," he says.

In writing to Albanese, Belacic also cited findings of a recent Austroads audit into rest areas on mainly AusLink routes. The report found no rest areas were adequately spaced apart according to national guidelines, while the majority "had substantial deficiencies in the frequency or provision of rest opportunities".

In line with other comments from within the transport industry, Belacic urged Albanese to work with state and territory governments to take immediate action to ensure there are enough well-maintained rest areas so truck drivers can comply with fatigue management regulations. Failure to do so, he says, will undermine fatigue regulations before they commence.

NatRoad estimates there is a national shortage of about 22,000 rest areas.
"The problems highlighted by NatRoad, and in the subsequent audit, clearly demonstrate that decisive and urgent action is needed for the provision of adequate rest areas, a critical safety measure," Belacic says.

Once governments invest more in rest areas, and once more are built, Belacic says heavy vehicle parking restrictions can then be reintroduced in residentially zoned areas.

In his letter, Belacic called for greater engagement with the Rudd Government to work towards ensuring truck drivers have access to rest areas. The Government has not yet responded.

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