Compulsory electronic diaries may increase costs

Trucking business costs to rise if paper work diaries are abolished in favour of electronic system, ATA says

By Brad Gardner | July 27, 2009

Governments are being warned they risk increasing the costs of running a small trucking business if they abolish paper work diaries in favour of an electronic system.

Following the release of the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) report proposing the introduction of voluntary electronic work diaries, the peak trucking group says businesses should be able to choose what system best suits their operations.

The NTC has raised the option of mandating electronic reporting in the future, but the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says small companies may not be able to afford the necessary equipment and ongoing maintenance costs.

The spokesman says operators using an electronic method will need to back up data and regularly update the system’s software and hardware.

"If you have one truck you don’t want that added complexity," the spokesman says.

"We don’t think the option of using a paper work diary should be closed off."

Under the NTC’s proposal, businesses will be able to use their current electronic systems so long as they meet set requirements, including having accurate clocks and a system to determine driver identification.

"The NTC has kept to an open design where performance is not assessed by a prescriptive device or system. The ATA believes this means many existing operator systems can be readily made suitable," ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says.

If the NTC’s proposal is endorsed by the Australian Transport Council (ATC), businesses will need to hire a ‘technical expert’ to assess their equipment.

Trucking operators will also need to apply to the Fatigue Authorities Panel, which the NTC proposes should be the body responsible for determining if a company can use electronic reporting.

If governments decide to scrap paper-based reporting, the NTC says drivers will benefit from continuous monitoring because there will be no need for roadside interrogation.

However, the NTC says "rigorous auditing regimes" will replace roadside enforcement, while vehicles may still be inspected on the roadside to ensure compliance with other road laws.

The NTC’s General Manager of Safety and Environment, Tim Eaton, says a shift to electronic record keeping means drivers will no longer need to spend time filling out paper diaries.

"By reducing the burden of form-filling, drivers and support staff can get on with the job of running a safe and professional business," he says.

The NTC is now seeking feedback from the industry on its electronic work diary proposal, which also includes a suggestion to review the supervisory intervention orders for recalcitrant operators.

Courts can impose systems like the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) on companies that repeatedly flout road laws.

But the NTC says courts have been reluctant to do so because there are no guidelines explaining how intervention orders can be used.

Submissions will be accepted up to September 4, with the ATA saying it will provide feedback on the issues raised by the NTC.

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