'Messy' approach undermines fatigue laws: VTA


Fatigue management laws will not drive optimal safety outcomes because of 'messy' approach by governments, the VTA argues

Governments have sacrificed the chance to use fatigue management to drive optimal safety outcomes because of their "messy" approach to the new laws, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) claims.

VTA Chief Executive Phil Lovel has criticised the states’ approach to fatigue management, which has led to cross-border inconsistencies and some states enforcing the laws despite the fact no legislation or regulation has been agreed to.

According to Lovel, governments’ rush to enforce laws in the face of an unprepared bureaucracy and industry has created a sub-optimal safety outcome.

Lovel says many operators have merely tried to do the minimum to comply by September 29 because they did not have enough time to devote resources to delivering the best fatigue mitigation measures.

He says governments should have given the industry up to 12 months to move to the new laws from the date they were agreed to in order to give operators time to adjust.

"The implementation phase is not ideal, with many pieces of information and changes to regulatory and administrative processes still dribbling out from governments right up to the implementation date, and, it would appear, beyond that date," Lovel says.

"As a result, what we are finding is that many transport operators are concentrating only on what they need to do as a minimum to comply, to fall over the line if you like."

Because of this, Lovel says the industry "must mark a spot in the sand on this" and demand of governments from now on that any measures passed must be accompanied by sufficient preparation and implementation time.

"In future, give industry at least nine to 12 months clear air to plan for and implement the reform after governments have signed off on the legislative and administrative changes, particularly when there are multifaceted issues involving people, changes to operational and administrative system and training," Lovel says.

This, Lovel claims, will give operators the chance to absorb what is expected of them.

In the meantime, he says industry groups must work with state road agencies as well as the National Transport Commission (NTC) to monitor fatigue management implementation "and work diligently to smooth processes during the first 12 months at least".

Lovel also wants a cooperative approach regarding educative enforcement practices.

"Because the industry has been squeezed out of sufficient time for implementation, and multiple transitional arrangements are adding to confusion about the legal requirements, many well-intentioned operators and drivers will be caught short," Lovel says.

But he warned the VTA will be aware of this and will defend and support anyone who it deems is unduly punished.

Victorian operators have been the hardest hit under fatigue management, as the Brumby Government ruled out a transition phase to the new regime unlike NSW, Queensland and South Australia.

Fatigue management laws aim to increase accountability in the supply chain by holding all those involved in the delivery of goods responsible for managing driver fatigue.

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