ARTA slams fatigue laws as shutdowns falter

By: Jason Whittaker

Opposition continues to mount against impending fatigue regulations, with claims they will fail to achieve their stated aims. Australian Road Train

Opposition continues to mount against impending fatigue regulations, with claims they will fail to achieve their stated aims.

Australian Road Train Association (ARTA) Executive Director John Morris has slammed the regulations, to be introduced on September 29, saying they will not address the root cause of fatigue-related incidents.

Morris says governments should be spending more resources on compliance and enforcement measures rather than pushing through new laws. He says the only problem with current fatigue regulations is they lack adequate measures to ensure the trucking industry complies with its responsibilities.

With targeted enforcement, Morris says those breaking current laws could be prosecuted under the Compliance and Enforcement Act (2005). He says the measures, used in NSW to prosecute grain harvesters guilty of overloading in 2005, are effective in addressing compliance issues.

"There is nothing wrong with the current system, the issue is in its inadequate compliance and enforcement," Morris says.

"No law will achieve its desired result unless there is rigorous enforcement."

Morris also says the new laws will result in more fatigued drivers as they push exploit outer limit provisions, such as the 16-hour under Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM), to reach their destination sooner.

"The regulations will encourage drivers to push harder with their available hours. Drivers will also push through fatigue to get to their destination to achieve their seven-hour break," Morris says.

The ARTA boss says the trucking industry must work together to halt the implementation of the regulations, which the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) want brought in over a six-month period to allow operators and owner-drivers a transition phase to adapt to the new measures.

Morris’ call for unity comes as proposed industry shutdowns protesting fatigue regulations are threatened due to infighting and personal rivalries.

Despite attempting to shore up support for shutdowns to oppose the new laws, logbook regulations and rising running costs, the instigators have spent more time criticising each other.

Mick Pattel, an owner-driver trying to organise a two-week shutdown from July 28, has referred to the Australian Long Distance Owners and Drivers Association (ALDODA), which is proposing its own industry-wide strike, as Al Qaeda.

He has accused it of attempting to derail his campaign and steal his spotlight. ALDODA, however, has labelled Pattel "a loose cannon" who is merely pushing for strikes in order to further his political ambitions as a member of the Southern Cross Party.

Pattel held a meeting in Dubbo in which more than 350 dissilusioned truck drivers were expected to turn up. But Morris, who attended the meeting, says about 70 attended.

ALDODA has also taken to criticising its own, with the chief executive, Jerry Brown-Sarre withdrawing support for the organisation’s self-appointed Queensland branch president, Lyn Bennetts.

Bennetts failed to gain attention following a strike from June 12 to June 25, leading her to launch a class action against the Queensland Government over logbook laws and rest areas.

The bitter squabbling has led Morris to plea for an end to disunity, saying the only way to achieve meaningful reforms is to work as one to pressure governments.

"In this era of unprecedented regulation and challenges, now is the time for the industry to drop its petty differences, for operators and drivers alike to join their respective association or union, and to work together to resolve the issues that are tearing apart our industry," he says.

Related stories:
- ALDODA infighting derails lawsuit
- Industry groups refuse to support shutdown

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