Work diary policy paper on the way

NTC prepares to release new policy paper on electronic work diaries as an alternative to paper-based reporting

By Brad Gardner | September 17, 2010

A new policy paper on electronic work diaries is close to being released to provide the trucking industry an alternative to complying with speed and fatigue obligations.

The paper, Electronic Systems for Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue and Speed Compliance, follows last year’s discussion document released by the National Transport Commission outlining suggestions for a voluntary electronic reporting scheme to exist alongside paper-based work diaries.

A spokeswoman for the NTC says the new document addresses key policy issues related to using electronic work diaries. While not providing a specific release date, the spokeswoman expects "it will be soon (coming months)".

The NTC is planning to release the paper alongside telematics specifications being developed by Austroads.

NTC Commissioner Greg Martin told the Livestock and Rural Transport Association he expected the paper to be released this week.

"We’re very interested in your comments on it," he told the group at its annual conference in Western Australia on September 11.

While saying the technology can help operators, Martin noted concerns by trucking operators about using it.

"People are hesitant about putting it into their vehicle because they are frightened someone is going to change a standard on them. At the same time they might be hesitant about putting it into a vehicle because of what might be imposed," he says.

However, Martin urged the industry not to view electronic reporting as a ‘big brother’ monitoring system.

"One of the sad things I think is that if we keep talking about telematics as being a big brother type activity I don’t think we’re going to go very far forward and also not take full advantage of what’s intended," he says.

"NTC is working on the basis of trying to help people voluntarily harness the benefits of this technology. That’s our interest. We are not interested in promoting the fact that it’s big brother."

The NTC proposed the use of voluntary electronic diaries last year as a means of reducing business costs for operators. It says drivers using an electronic system will no longer need to spend time filling out forms.

A primary concern over the introduction of the technology is its accuracy. The industry has raised concerns drivers will receive multiple infringements for minor offences because telematics are accurate to within one second and 1km.

Trucking veteran and road safety advocate Rod Hannifey fears a loss of good drivers if road authorities penalise them for insignificant indiscretions.

The Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources (DIER) has recommended a national sanctions policy be developed to ensure drivers are not penalised for low level breaches.

Despite the NTC’s desire for operators to have a choice, GPS provider Fleet Effect believes electronic work diaries should be mandatory.

During his address to the conference, Martin highlighted the NTC’s desire to work with trucking operators on proposing and implementing reforms to the trucking industry.

"We’re very interested in engagement, we’re very interested in constructive proposals about how we should go forward," he says.

The spokeswoman for the NTC says the policy paper will be released for public consultation and the NTC will seek feedback from stakeholders.

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