OUR SAY: The great fatigue stuff-up


End the contradictions and confusion on fatigue management and give the industry a scheme that works

By Brad Gardner

The NSW Government can no longer tread the current path it is taking on fatigue management. Like a festering sore, the issue of demerit points being linked to work diary offences needs to be addressed.

The way the situation is currently being handled highlights the disregard with which some in government and the bureaucracy have of the trucking industry.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is running around issuing its version of events, while Minister for Roads Michael Daley is busy saying something else.

Speak to the roads authority and a representative will tell you the RTA is responsible for issuing demerit points. Ask Daley and you will be told the power is in the hands of the magistrate.

The amateurish display would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

When there is disconnect between a minister and their department on something like fatigue management that affects the running of an entire profession then something needs to be done.

Yet there has been no statement from the RTA or Daley’s office to the industry clarifying the demerit points issue or an apology for causing unnecessary confusion.

Instead, it is up to companies like Lyons Transport, Stockmaster and PF Transport and truck drivers like Darren Pulley to come forward and highlight the problems, which would otherwise remain unreported.

Pulley left court in July with a $500 fine for two fatigue management breaches. No demerit points were issued by the magistrate, which led him to believe no further penalties would apply.

But soon after the court case the RTA sent a letter notifying Pulley he had lost seven points from licence.

Yet when he rang the department he was told the points were issued by the court. Not so, another RTA representative told ATN, we have held the power since 2005.

Is it too much to ask for a cohesive and honest response?

Instead, the RTA’s contribution is to trot out silver-tongued lackeys at industry events to extol the virtues of fatigue management all the while responding to questions from stakeholders with: "We’ll endeavour to get back to you."

And to say magistrates have responsibility for issuing demerit points is like saying an employee chooses to become redundant. The fact is, neither have a say in the matter.

NSW courts can reduce or waiver financial penalties in extenuating circumstances, but legislation states demerit points must be issued regardless of a magistrate’s decision.

The court case involving Pulley highlights the flaw in this approach. He faced fines of $2000, but his case was considered serious enough to only warrant a $500 penalty. Despite this, maximum demerit points were issued.

Why is it good enough for the financial penalty to be reduced, but not demerit points?

Daley has so far gained recognition from the industry for his constructive approach to fatigue management laws. He needs to continue his efforts, starting with ending his non-negotiable stance on demerit points and ensuring his office and the RTA are on the same page.

Enforcement officers are quite capable of issuing fines and court appearance notices to those who breach driving hours or fail to correctly fill in work diaries.

Meanwhile, those who mislead the industry on fatigue management go about their work, facing no penalty. Hardly seems fair, really.

What do you think? Is the issue of demerit points a shemozzle? Has your business been stung by the confusion? Have your say in the comments below, send anonymous tips via e-mail or you can even join the debate on Twitter by following @atnmag.


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