Gloves come off on fatigue; regulators to crackdown

Regulators vow to haul operators and drivers before court on fatigue management breaches now the transition period has ended

Gloves come off on fatigue; regulators to crackdown
Gloves come off on fatigue; regulators to crackdown
By Michael House | October 2, 2009

The gloves have come off on fatigue management, with regulators warning the trucking industry a zero tolerance stance will be taken towards those caught breaching the laws.

Following the end of the transition phase which granted concessions to those enrolled in the transitional fatigue management scheme (TFMS), Queensland Transport says enforcement officers will not hesitate hauling a suspected fatigue management offender before the courts.

The South Australian Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure (DTEI) is also planning a crackdown on those caught flouting fatigue management.

Between September 28, 2008 and September 28 this year, TFMS-accredited drivers were free to work under the 14-hour basic fatigue management (BFM) module to give them time to move over to the new scheme.

"From 29 September 2008, drivers employed by operators in the TFMS who have not gained accreditation in either BFM or AFM [advanced fatigue management] will be committing an offence if they operate in excess of [12-hour] standard hours," a DTEI spokesperson says.

Queensland Transport says enforcement officers will have the discretion to issue a warning or begin court action depending on the nature of the breach, and there is no sympathy for drivers or operators who do not understand their obligations.

"The department is confident that there has been ample time and information available about the new reforms, for operators to make an informed decision on whether to be accredited under the new fatigue scheme," a spokesperson for Queensland Transport says.

The South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) has backed the tough approach, saying drivers should not be surprised because they have had enough time to prepare themselves for the changes.

"No one could really say they didn’t know this date was coming whether they are happy [about the changes] or not," SARTA Chief Executive Steve Shearer says.

"Our membership base has been informed about the changes many times over the last two years."

But while the transition phase may have ended earlier this week, Shearer says he is not aware of any infringements.

"I am not aware of anybody who has been penalised since September 28, but I don’t expect there will be a significant honeymoon period," he says.

Shearer is using the rhetoric of the regulators to urge companies to enrol in BFM or AFM to ensure they comply with their fatigue management obligations.

He says operators and drivers "need to get cracking" and SARTA is working with companies to help them gain BFM approval.

Queensland Transport says the introduction of fatigue management in 2008 has cut the number of fatigue-related offences by 56 percent.

Furthermore, a department spokesperson says there are many companies meeting their responsibilities, which include ensuring drivers take regular breaks and developing a trip plan.

"Queensland is leading the states in number of operators accredited for fatigue management with 282 operators accredited for basic fatigue management and nine operators accredited for advanced fatigue management," according to the spokesperson.

However, the DTEI spokesperson says there has been more than 500 fatigue offences detected in South Australia since the TFMS transition phase began in September last year.

The Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association (LBCA) unsuccessfully tried to have the transition extended, arguing governments had not done enough to inform the industry of its obligations.

LBCA Chief Executive Andrew Higginson says many small operators are unaware of how to enrol in BFM or what is expected of them, opening the door to potentially serious compliance infringements.

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 NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) recently released a help kit designed to make it easier for operators to enrol in BFM.

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