Industry warned of fatigue cost blow-out

Company that took part in Fatigue Management Pilot warns of financial loss and delays in moving to AFM

By Brad Gardner

Trucking operators may be forced to spend over $1 million and wait up to two years to gain accreditation in Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM).

The Chairman of Rocky’s Own, Wally Eaglesham, says operators face a massive financial and administrative burden in moving to the fatigue module, which requires operators to implement a number of stringent procedures in return for a flexible fatigue management program.

Rocky’s Own took part in the Fatigue Management Pilot program that began in Queensland 15 years ago and Eaglesham says it almost pushed the operator into bankruptcy.

"In the first two weeks of being involved in fatigue management we lost 60 percent of our business because we had to increase our freight rates. We nearly went broke," Eaglesham says.

The company, which is close to implementing AFM, struggled for two years to have its proposals pass a fatigue management tribunal.

Because of this, Rocky’s Own had to continually spend more money finetuning its applications, which Eaglesham says were rejected because of minor details.

"We would have easily spent in excess of $1 million on our fatigue management pilot," he says.

"It was a terrible struggle."

All AFM applications must be approved by a tribunal made up of a number of fatigue management experts.

The lengthy time taken for the tribunal to pass the operator’s proposal has led Eaglesham to question whether a six-month transition period to the new laws in NSW Queensland and South Australia will be enough.

Despite the setbacks, Eaglesham is a keen supporter of fatigue management, arguing it is necessary to reduce heavy vehicle accidents.

Since taking part in the pilot, he says there have not been any fatigue-related accidents at Rocky’s Own.

Furthermore, he says the company has in three years recouped the losses incurred from taking part in the pilot, saying customers are interested in obtaining Rocky’s Own’s services because of the assurance chain of responsibility laws offer.

But, similar to comments made by industry groups, Eaglesham claims there is still a high level of misunderstanding about fatigue laws and what customers’ responsibilities will be under the new regime.

Under fatigue management all aspects of the supply chain need to take steps to ensure delivery schedules do not force drivers to work fatigued.

Operators can apply to become accredited in AFM, which allows them to create their own fatigue management module in return for putting in place a medical checks, internal and external audits, and an effective record-keeping system.

Operators must also demonstrate to the fatigue management tribunal they have procedures in place to identify and address non-compliance issues.

For the complete story on Rocky's Own's move to AFM and Eaglesham's thoughts on fatigue management, see the October edition of ATN magazine. To secure your copy call (07) 3166 2323 or subscribe online.

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