No deal: Government won't extend fatigue transition

Trucking industry loses fight to extend fatigue management transition after NSW says changes will be "unfair"

No deal: Government won't extend fatigue transition
No deal: Government won't extend fatigue transition
By Brad Gardner | September 14, 2009

The trucking industry’s bid to have the transition to fatigue management laws extended in NSW has failed, with the Rees Government saying any changes are unjustified.

A spokesperson for outgoing Minister for Roads Michael Daley says the year-long phase-in period for those under the transitional fatigue management scheme (TFMS) will end on September 28.

The transition was also introduced in Queensland and South Australia.

The measure was put in place last year to allow TFMS-accredited drivers to work under basic fatigue management (BFM) as a means of giving them time to adopt the new system.

A spokesperson for Daley says the industry has had a generous amount of time to adapt to the changes when compared to Victoria which granted six months.

Furthermore, the spokesperson says almost 1000 operators sought and gained accreditation this year on the basis the deadline would end in September.

"Extending the transition period would be unfair to the over 950 transport companies who have already trained their drivers and obtained BFM and AFM [advanced fatigue management] accreditation under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme," the spokesperson says.

NatRoad Chief Executive Bernie Belacic says he is disappointed by the Government’s decision and is concerned of the ramifications it may have.

He says many in the industry are unaware of their obligations due to a lack of communication from government.

"I am disappointed that the help operators needed wasn’t there and this will leave a lot of people in the lurch," Belacic says.

NatRoad supported the proposal from the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association (LBCA) for a transition extension until educational tools were developed to assist companies and drivers to move from TFMS to BFM or AFM.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is due to release a help kit for the industry shortly which is intended to outline how operators and drivers can gain accreditation.

However, the LBCA say the measure should have been introduced sooner because the industry will not have enough time to gain accreditation before September 28.

The Government has also rejected claims TFMS-enrolled drivers who have not moved to BFM or AFM by September 28 will be immediately forced to rest for 48 hours.

Although exemption notices in the three jurisdictions where the transition applies say drivers will need to revert from the BFM 14-hour workday to the 12-hour workday of standard hours, there is no mention of a two-day break.

The National Transport commission (Model Legislation—Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue Regulations does state, however, that drivers may need to take longer breaks when moving from one fatigue module to another to ensure they are in compliance.

The regulation states drivers need to take a "reset rest break" of 48 hours if changing from AFM to another module.

But LBCA Executive Director Andrew Higginson says the 48-hour rest applies to those with TFMS who have not enrolled in BFM.

He says many in the industry do not know how to move to BFM and are unaware of the rest requirement, 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.

Despite the Government’s non-negotiable stance on the phase-in period, the spokesperson for Daley says the RTA is committed to helping the industry comply with fatigue management.

"We’re always willing to help operators who are having difficulties transitioning and would encourage them to contact the RTA," the spokesperson says.

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