Sic big brother onto speeding, fatigue: RTA

RTA pushes for IAP to be linked to speed and fatigue in a move which may increase trucking operators' costs

Sic big brother onto speeding, fatigue: RTA
RTA wants IAP for speed and fatigue
By Brad Gardner | September 15, 2009

Trucking operators may be forced to spend thousands of dollars to install new monitoring technology in their vehicles under a proposal from the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

The government department wants the controversial Intelligent Access Program (IAP) to also be used as an electronic work diary capable of monitoring a company's compliance with speed and fatigue management laws.

IAP is currently compulsory for those wanting to gain access to higher mass limits (HML).

The RTA made the proposal in its response to a position paper from the National Transport Commission (NTC) on an alternative to paper-based reporting.

Although the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) told the NTC operators should be able to use their existing tracking systems as electronic work diaries, the RTA claims commercial systems do not have "high levels of reliability, data quality and tamper evidence".

"From a regulatory perspective there is a need for common data presentation standards and formats so that information generated from electronic work diaries can be easily interrogated by enforcement officers," the RTA says.

As reported by ATN, operators are being charged by IAP-accredited companies up to $20,000 to have the necessary equipment installed in as few as five trucks.

Companies such as Baxter Transport are also paying $800 monthly administration fees.

But according to the RTA, increasing IAP’s monitoring capability has the potential to benefit trucking companies.

"Building on the current IAP framework by adding fatigue and speed modules may also reduce costs for currently enrolled IAP operators as they may be able to retain their existing IAP in-vehicle units and won’t incur the cost of investing in new equipment," the RTA writes in its submission.

In its submission, the RTA wants Transport Certification Australia—the body responsible for accrediting IAP providers—to be given the responsibility for approving any applications for electronic work diaries.

This includes the TCA inspecting a company’s ability to secure data before granting it permission to use electronic diaries.

Under the RTA’s proposal, trucking companies with existing monitoring technology will be given time to install new systems.

"In introducing regulatory requirements for electronic systems, transitional arrangements could be offered to these companies to allow time to migrate from their current non-complying systems to any new complying system," the road department’s submission says.

However, the RTA says cost and potential administrative burdens should not be a priority for regulators when developing guidelines for electronic monitoring.

"The system should be developed from a clear policy perspective rather than around a concern simply and solely to secure a lower impost on industry," the submission reads.

While it has not explicitly stated paper work diaries should be replaced, the RTA raises concerns over the efficacy of a voluntary compliance scheme.

The RTA says such a scheme may lead to decent operators investing heavily in reliable and trustworthy systems while others will install cheap and unreliable technology capable of being manipulated.

Furthermore, the RTA argues in its submission there is a regulatory need for speed and fatigue monitoring because operators are manipulating speed limiters.

The NTC has recommended the industry be given a choice between paper-based and electronic reporting, a move supported by the ATA.

ATN contacted the RTA for clarification on the department’s position but was told the RTA had no view on whether the scheme should be voluntary or mandatory.

"It is up to the government to decide in due course," a spokesman for the RTA says.

But the RTA has agreed with previous submissions that drivers should not be targeted for minor mistakes, which are expected to occur regularly due to the accuracy of electronic monitoring.

However, it has disagreed with the NTC’s proposal for drivers to be given the ability to alter the information in an electronic work diary to ensure it is accurate.

Instead, the RTA says legislative amendments should be made to recognise the features of electronic systems because any tampering "would undermine the credibility of the entire system".

The NTC was tasked with looking at electronic work diaries earlier this year and asked to submit a policy proposal to the Australian Transport Council (ATC) based on the feedback it receives to its position paper.

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