NTC asks: should demerit points be reviewed?

Demerit points for fatigue management offences may be reviewed as part of moves to establish national transport regulations

NTC asks: should demerit points be reviewed?
NTC asks: should demerit points be reviewed?
By Brad Gardner | July 13, 2010

Demerit points for fatigue management offences may soon be reviewed as part of moves to establish national transport regulations.

A group made up of government and industry representatives that focuses on fatigue management issues has been asked by the National Transport Commission if Queensland’s demerit points policy should be expanded to other jurisdictions or altered to fit other states.

The process is part of preparations to resolve cross-border inconsistencies before the introduction of national heavy vehicle regulations in 2013.

The Fatigue Maintenance Group, established by the NTC, will report back at its next meeting on what should be done. A spokesperson for the NTC says a date has not been set for the meeting.

Unlike other governments, Queensland issues demerit points to truck drivers who fail to carry a work diary or if they are using more than one at the same time.

NTC Senior Manager Dr Jeff Potter says Queensland roadside officers also have the power to issue demerit points with infringement notices.

Potter says "it’s not satisfactory" to have cross-border differences on demerit points.

The Australian Trucking Association, which is a member of the Fatigue Maintenance Group, has used the opportunity to call for the demerit points system to be overhauled.

Courts currently have the power to waive financial penalties in extenuating circumstances but demerit points will always be applied if the truck driver is found guilty of an offence.

The ATA believes courts should have the power to waive points.

"We do not agree with automatic administrative application of demerit points as it undermines the role of the courts," the association wrote in a letter to the NTC following its request for the group to look at the issue.

"The administrative automatic application of demerit points outside the court’s jurisdiction is unfair."

The ATA claims the NTC is planning to widen the application of demerit points, a comment which surprised Potter.

"We have taken no decisions," he says.

He says the request to the Fatigue Maintenance Group is simply to determine if the NTC should begin a process of looking at demerit points reform.

South Australia has listed fatigue management inconsistencies as a primary concern to be resolved before the introduction of national regulations.

Industry group the WA Transport Forum wants Western Australia to retain its own fatigue management scheme, which differs to the schemes used in eastern states.

From 2013, Queensland will be responsible for passing laws and other jurisdictions will then need to introduce the same legislation to ensure cross-border consistency.

National laws will be overseen by a national heavy vehicle regulator that will be established in Queensland with offices across Australia.

What do you think? Should the demerit points system be reformed? Should Queensland’s policy be expanded? Leave your thoughts below.

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