Fatigue reprieve plea as compliance blitz looms

Government urged to extend NSW fatigue management transition; warnings of chaos once it ends

Fatigue reprieve plea as compliance blitz looms
Fatigue plea as compliance blitz looms
By Brad Gardner | September 11, 2009

The New South Wales Government is being urged to extend the transition to fatigue management regulations over concerns trucking operations will be thrown into chaos once the phase-in period ends.

The Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association is warning of potentially serious compliance problems once a year-long exemption for those enrolled in the transitional fatigue management scheme (TFMS) is lifted on September 28.

NSW, Queensland and South Australia gave TFMS-accredited drivers permission to work under the 14-hour basic fatigue management (BFM) module for a year to give them time to take up the new scheme.

Once the transition ends, TFMS-enrolled drivers without BFM certification will need to immediately stop work for two consecutive days and then revert to 12-hour shifts.

But LBCA Executive Director Andrew Higginson says many are unaware of the rest requirement or how to move to BFM, opening the door to scheduling headaches and unsuspecting drivers being penalised for severe fatigue management breaches.

"The unintentional consequences and people losing their licence is a worry to us," Higginson says.

In Queensland alone, drivers can be slugged with up to three demerit points and fined as much as $6,000 for exceeding the 12-hour workday by less than two hours.

The LBCA wants the exemption extended until educational tools are developed to assist companies and drivers to move from TFMS to BFM or the higher advanced fatigue management (AFM) module.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is due to release a help kit on fatigue management shortly, but Higginson says the industry will not have enough time between now and September 28 to implement it.

He says it is hard to determine how many will be affected by the demise of the phase-in period because there are no figures on the number of TFMS-enrolled companies not yet accredited in fatigue management.

"A lot of people have come across but they [government officials] can’t definitively say how many have not," he says.

Queensland-based Nolan’s Transport was one of the first companies to gain advanced fatigue management (AFM) approval, and the company’s Darren Nolan says he can understand why sections of the industry are struggling to know what to do.

He says there are a lot of hurdles to achieving compliance, such as training staff, organising initial and follow-up audits and implementing driving programs. And the costs of enrolling in BFM or AFM are prohibitive.

Operators seeking to work under AFM must engage a fatigue management expert such as an academic to look at how the company plans to manage fatigue. Nolan says the process can cost upwards of $10,000.

The LBCA is trying to get a new demerit points system introduced to deal with fatigue management offences and wants the matter settled before the end of the transition. It is also opposed to the forced two-day rest period for those who do not move from TFMS to BFM.

Higginson says the RTA has cooperated with the body, though Minister Michael Daley is yet to respond to questions from ATN.

NatRoad has backed the LBCA's push and will consider taking Higginson’s proposal to Queensland and South Australia.

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