Fatigue management flexibility a 'significant risk'

RTA claims giving truck drivers leeway for rest breaks under fatigue management is a "significant risk"

By Brad Gardner | June 25, 2010

The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority has labelled an industry proposal for greater leeway on rest breaks as a "significant risk" to fatigue management.

During a government inquiry into heavy vehicle safety earlier this year, Dubbo MP Dawn Fardell questioned how drivers could combat issues such as significant traffic delays to ensure they were not unfairly penalised for fatigue management breaches.

In transcripts from a May 17 hearing as part of the inquiry, Dr Soames Job from the RTA’s Centre for Road Safety says enforcement officers can waive penalties if a breach is outside the driver’s control.

He rejected an industry request for an extra 45 minutes driving time if there was no place for a driver to rest.

"Allowing drivers an extra 45 minutes is a different issue because that creates a systemic, rather than a specific, change in relation to a known incident."

"The reason we have not given that is that there is no way in which to regulate it. When they are caught we would not know whether or not a break occurred 45 minutes down the road.

"We believe that the extra 45 minutes is a significant risk."

While saying he is sympathetic to the concerns of the industry, Job says the RTA needs to weigh the inconvenience of a trucking operator with the risk of allowing the driver to work longer.

The transcripts point out dissatisfaction from the trucking industry over fatigue management laws.

Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association (LBCA) Executive Director Andrew Higginson told the government inquiry the industry is still coming to grips with the laws due to the way they were introduced.

"Unfortunately, those regulations, which came in on 28 September 2008, were about 140 pages of regulations and they were given to the industry two days before they were introduced," he says.

He urged greater cooperation between government and industry to work together to achieve the best outcome for both groups.

"Unless we get all parties involved, we do not think you can make a difference. Too often we see governments making announcements or introducing complex regulations that industry knows little about," he says.

The inquiry, held by the Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety, is looking at issues such as industrial relations laws to see if they have improved heavy vehicle safety.

It is due to release a report on its findings soon.

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