Fatigue faults, but industry complying: VTA

Fatigue management laws still mired in confusion and controversy, but VTA says businesses are working hard to comply

Fatigue management laws are still mired in confusion and controversy, but the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) says businesses are working hard to comply with the new system.

VTA Deputy Chief Executive Neil Chambers says industry and government are still learning about the new laws and some road authorities are fining drivers for unintentional mistakes, such as incorrectly filling out work diaries.

Following the inaugural meeting of the Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue Implementation Group, Chambers told operators "to gather hard evidence if they feel that their drivers have been treated unfairly or harshly".

"There have been examples of unduly harsh enforcement practices in the early stages, and it is far to say that many in the industry, and in fact in the government as well, are still coming to terms with the practical implications and application of the new laws," Chambers says.

"We have also noticed that there are still some misinterpretations and misunderstandings about the new laws."

He says some drivers mistakenly believe once they gain accreditation in a fatigue management module such as Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) they can operate under the 14-hour work requirements.

"This is not the case. To work under BFM hours the driver must be employed by an operator who holds BFM accreditation and they must meet the requirements of that accreditation," Chambers says.

Despite these concerns, Chambers says many Victorian-based operators are "cracking on", with more than 125 operators becoming accredited in BFM since November.

Furthermore, he says VicRoads and Victoria Police have pledged to work with the industry to solve concerns over fatigue laws.

Chambers says there is evidence police are taking an educative focus towards the new laws because of a decline in infringement notices.

During the meeting, Chambers told attendees the VTA had also noticed operators of some distribution centres have taken an over-zealous approach to managing their own compliance as load managers and that of drivers and operators.

The VTA, along with VicRoads, Victoria Police and WorkSafe, plan to visit the distribution centres to speak with the managers about their obligations and practices.

The Fatigue Implementation Monitoring Group brings together government and industry representatives.

VicRoads chaired the first meeting, which was attended by the VTA, the Livestock Transporters Association of Victoria, the Transport Workers Union and the Bus Association of Victoria.

There were also representatives from enforcement agencies, police and VicRoads’ Traffic Safety Services.

"The sheer fact that we are able to sit down maturely with the enforcement authorities in this State in such a cooperative forum is testament to the desire by the government agencies and the industry to try and achieve the best safety outcomes from the implementation of these new laws," Chambers says.

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