AFM module is the way to go: owner-driver

By: Jason Whittaker

Trucking companies looking to Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) just because it is easier to comply with may leave their drivers

Trucking companies looking to Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) just because it is easier to comply with may leave their drivers worse off, according to an owner-driver.

Under new fatigue management regulations, companies wanting to operate under BFM—which offers a 14-hour workday—must be accredited in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS), undergo audits and comply with six fatigue management standards.

AFM, however, requires companies to follow 10 guidelines, such as medical assessments, internal and external audits, installing sleeper berth facilities and matching drivers to the freight task.

But Queensland operator Tony Brown, who has been operating under fatigue management regulations since 1995 when he took part in the pilot program, supports Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) due to its flexibility.

AFM allows drivers or operators to develop their own fatigue management plan rather than following prescribed hours.

Brown says companies looking to become accredited in BFM "are going to come unstuck" because the fatigue module will not allow them to alter their management plans in case an incident demanding flexibility arises.

"The companies who choose BFM because they don’t want to go the extra few yards…could be making it harder for their drivers," he says.

Brown points to AFM’s split rest provision as the reason why he supports the module, saying BFM is too restrictive in that it sets how many hours a driver can work during a day and when they must rest.

As the fatigue management implementation date draws closer, the trucking industry is being told to focus its attention on determining what regulations will best suit their business rather than listening to fatigue management detractors.

The Queensland Trucking Association’s (QTA) Jan Pattison, who is Brown’s partner and his fatigue management compliance manager, says the laws will be introduced, so critics should be spending more time educating the industry rather than attempting to stir up opposition.

"Unbiased and correct information to owner-drivers and the whole industry has been lacking in the lead-up to the changes," Pattison says.

Pattison points to claims made by Transport Workers Union (TWU) Queensland Branch Secretary Hughie Williams that AFM will contribute to the heavy vehicle road toll because it permits drivers to work for 16 hours.

Yet Williams is missing the point of the regulations, Pattison says. The laws do not allow a driver to operate for 16 hours on a continuous basis, and any 16-hour shift means a driver must work a shorter day or take a long rest during their next shift.

While adding she can understand operators and owner-drivers may oppose the laws on the back of increasing fuel, insurance and registration costs, Pattison says there is no point in stakeholders ignoring their responsibilities.

"The new laws are going to happen. [There is] no use sticking your head in the sand and hoping it will just go away," she says.

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