NTC promises fatigue review this month

A review into how to improve fatigue management law for the trucking industry will be released this month, the NTC says

NTC promises fatigue review this month
NTC promises fatigue review this month
By Brad Gardner | August 3, 2010

A report into how governments can improve basic fatigue management will be released by the end of this month, the National Transport Commission says.

The NTC agreed last year to look at the BFM module after claims sections of the trucking industry were rejecting the scheme because it was too burdensome.

The report is meant to address industry concerns over driving and rest hours and make recommendations on how to make BFM more flexible for operators and boost the take-up of the scheme.

The spokesperson says key issues being considered include the ability of drivers to split their rest breaks.

"Under the new laws, a long break of seven hours is required in any 24 hours," the spokesperson says.

"This is one hour longer than the previous limit and for practical reasons some proponents argue that they should be able to split that seven hour break into two blocks, even if it means the two blocks sum to a period exceeding seven hours."

According to the spokesperson, the report will also examine the rest cycle, which currently requires a 24 hour rest in seven days.

"This means that a driver can’t work more than seven days in a row, even if the days are short and do not involve high risk activity such as night work," the spokesperson says.

"It is argued that this is unnecessarily restrictive and that a practical solution can be found which allows fourteen, rather than seven day cycles and adequately manages risk."

Industry is also looking for reform to restrictions on the time drivers can begin working.

The law currently counts a night rest period as 10pm to 8am and limits the amount of shifts a driver can do during this time.

"It is argued that the limitations on the night rest period (10pm to 8am) restricts the capacity of drivers to go to bed early and start work early in a consistent basis. Minor adjustments to that window may enable greater flexibility while maintaining safety," the spokesperson says.

The NTC was recently criticised by the Australian Livestock Transporters Association (ALTA) over the time taken to release the report.

NTC Chairman Greg Martin told a conference in February this year the report was close to being released.

In a newsletter to ALTA members last week, ALTA Executive Director Philip Halton claimed a staffer at the NTC said the group was "too busy with the National [Heavy Vehicle] Regulator" to finish the report.

However, the NTC spokesperson says the report has not been released yet because of the time taken to consult stakeholders and work with fatigue management experts to ensure their concerns were met.

"It is important that the report accurately and fully reflects their advice to ensure the safety of drivers or the broader community is not compromised," the spokesperson says.

Introduced in September 2008, fatigue management law gives drivers the choice of one of three modules to work under.

Standard hours limits drivers to 12-hour workdays, while those accredited in BFM can work up to 14 hours a day.

Drivers and companies must be audited and capable of meeting set criteria before they are given BFM accreditation.

The third module, advanced fatigue management, allows operators to design their own scheme for managing a driver’s fatigue. Similar to BFM, they must meet criteria before being accredited.

AFM allows drivers to work up to 16 hours a day in extenuating circumstances.

The former NSW roads minister, Michael Daley, in 2009 requested the NTC to look at work and rest periods under BFM.

"Some trucking companies may have lost flexibility under the scheme, and this might encourage them to stick with the traditional approach of relying on a driver filling in a record of how much driving he has done," Daley said at the time.

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