Daley steps in on fatigue fines, reins in RTA

Minister vows to rein in zealous RTA officers by changing how infringements are issued for diary offences

Daley steps in on fatigue fines, reins in RTA
Daley steps in on fatigue fines
By Brad Gardner

New South Wales Minister for Roads Michael Daley has vowed to rein in zealous enforcement officers by removing infringements for certain fatigue management offences.

Speaking at today's NatRoad conference in Coffs Harbour, Daley announced two fatigue management reforms that will change the way the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) deals with work diary breaches.

Drivers who commit minor mistakes such as forgetting to sign a section of their work diary will only receive formal warnings rather than a fine.

"It applies to administrative logbook offences only. It does not apply for more serious or substantial offences. For example, it won't apply if you drive more than you're allowed to," Daley says.

Daley, who has won praise from the industry for reforming fatigue management regulations in NSW, says it is better to take a "carrots rather than sticks" approach to helping truck drivers and operators comply with fatigue management.

And in a move that has the potential to slash the number of fines given to drivers, Daley says multiple administrative offences will be "clustered".

"If you have got a number of minor logbook breaches, for example, rather than getting hit three or four times for three or four offences, a reasonable prosecution...will see that we should really treat them as a single offence," Daley says.

Despite announcing the changes, Daley will not consider reforming the demerit points policy that strips magistrates of the power to waiver them in extenuating circumstances.

In NSW, a magistrate can decide against fining a truck driver but still record a guilty verdict. The power to rule on demerit points, however, was taken away in 2005.

NatRoad delegates expressed frustration at the policy when speaking to Daley at the conference, but the Roads Minister told them points would only be issued if drivers pleaded guilty to an offence.

During his speech, Daley also publicly declared his support for a fixed wages system in the trucking sector.

Echoing claims made by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Daley told delegates it was important to reform pay rates to improve safety.

"With the enormity of the freight task increasing, the industry can't turn its back on the issue," he says.

However, he has promised to consult with operators and argue on their behalf when meeting with federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese and Industrial Relations Minister Julia Gillard.

"Safe rates are on the way. It is just a matter of time," Daley says.

"I invite you to work with me to design a system that has your fingerprints on it."

During his wide-ranging speech, Daley also committed to opening up more of the road network to higher mass vehicles.

Although conceding a lack of community support for the trucks, Daley says: "A 26m B-double with new suspension has no fear for me."

Daley also spoke of the importance of national laws, but says this must not come at the expense of safety.

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