Forget tinkering, NRFA wants 'wholesale reform'

Owner-driver representative group wants sweeping changes to fatigue laws, including applying them to motorists and scrapping BFM

Forget tinkering, NRFA wants 'wholesale reform'
Forget tinkering, NRFA wants 'wholesale reform'
By Brad Gardner | October 8, 2010

An owner-driver representative group wants sweeping changes made to fatigue management laws, including applying them to motorists and scrapping the basic fatigue management (BFM) module.

The National Road Freighters Association has labelled proposed minor changes to BFM by the National Transport Commission as "a sorry attempt to fix the unfixable".

Writing to the NTC, NRFA President Mick Pattel says the general public should be limited to 14 hours of driving in a 24-hour period and be required to fill out work diaries to ensure trucks are protected from fatigued motorists.

"We do need a regulated system for all motorist cars and trucks alike, it isn’t good enough that the trucking industry has to comply to rigid driving hours and the car drivers are not accountable in any way," Pattel says.

He wants BFM eliminated in favour of retaining two modules – standard hours and advanced fatigue management (AFM).

The standard hours module does not require training or auditing, but drivers are limited to 12-hour workdays. Operators must go through training and implement safety procedures to gain BFM accreditation, which grants 14-hour workdays.

Pattel says the 14-hour limit should become the new standard hours option and that drivers should have seven hours of rest after 14 hours of driving.

"The NRFA is requesting wholesale reform to create a workable system that will remove the extreme stress and hardship the current system is placing on the industry," he says.

According to Pattel, the existing system is too regimented and causes drivers to feel trapped. He also cites the interpretation and application of fatigue laws as a problem.

"Road transport is now the most regulated industry in Australia and it seems to have become fair game for any group in authority to have a stab at applying their own forms of regulation," he says.

The Australian Livestock Transporters Association (ALTA) Executive Director, Philip Halton, wants governments to revert to the original fatigue management law, which was supposed to be national until states decided to introduce their own amendments.

He says the original version exists in Queensland and NSW, unlike the scheme introduced in South Australia and Victoria.

"Get the southern and eastern states back onto one page, and then we can move forward together with any future improvements that are needed," he says.

The NTC is currently receiving feedback on proposed changes to BFM to improve the scheme for the trucking industry, including changing restrictions on night work and when drivers are required to rest.

Industry group NatRoad supports applying fatigue laws from the bus industry to trucking operators.

The NTC has also been asked to consider Western Australia’s fatigue laws, which differ to those in the eastern states.

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