Give WA fatigue laws a go, NTC told

The NTC has been asked to consider Western Australia's fatigue management scheme as part of plans to reform BFM

Give WA fatigue laws a go, NTC told
Give WA fatigue laws a go, NTC told
By Brad Gardner | October 7, 2010

The National Transport Commission is being asked to look at Western Australia’s fatigue management laws to deliver a scheme that better suits the trucking industry.

The Western Australian Department of Transport has written to the NTC as it undertakes a review of the basic fatigue management (BFM) scheme, which has been criticised as inflexible.

Western Australia runs a different system to eastern states and the department says the trucking industry supports it.

"When reviewing the Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) regime the Western Australian experience should be considered," the department writes.

"We have not had any concerns raised about these standards and believe industry appreciate the flexibility they offer."

Under the Western Australian model, drivers can work up to 168 hours in a 14-day period and 17 hours in one day.

While drivers must have a seven-hour break every 24 hours, they are not prevented from working at night. They must have at least two 24-hour rest periods in any 14-day period.

BFM restricts work time to 14 hours and prevents drivers from working for more than 36 hours a week between the hours of 10pm and 8am.

BFM also mandates a 24-hour rest after 84 hours of work. Industry group NatRoad wants this replaced with a 48-hour break within a 14-day period (144 hours of work).

Truck driver and road safety advocate Rod Hannifey says the industry should have the power to separate the breaks into two 24-hour periods within 14 days.

Referring to the needs of the mining industry to run longer rosters, the Department of Transport criticises existing BFM standards.

"It is not practical to stop drivers after having worked a cumulative 84 hours and it is not practical to restrict drivers to day time operations only," it says.

The department questions the need to impose strict controls on trucking operators using BFM considering they are already subjected to audits and training requirements.

It says the NTC has the opportunity to give the industry greater control of its scheduling and rostering practices.

"Such an approach would give recognition to the professionalism of the industry and gain greater support for the reform program," the department says.

"It may also make BFM more appealing to operators on standard hours and lead to more operators in accreditation."

The standard hours program does not require operators to undergo training or auditing, but drivers are limited to 12-hour workdays.

Transport Forum WA CEO Ian King says Western Australia should not adopt fatigue laws from eastern states during the move to national trucking regulations.

Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Western Australia (LRTA) President Grant Robins says the state’s scheme is a proven success.

During this year’s LRTA conference, WA Transport Minister Simon O’Brien raised concerns about the effectiveness of the approach taken by Victoria, Queensland, NSW and South Australia.

"We are being very cautious about adopting national fatigue management guidelines because we don’t think they have got a better system than we’ve got now," O’Brien told the conference.

The NTC is currently receiving feedback on its BFM reform proposals, which include amending the 84-hour rule and night work restrictions.

NTC CEO Nick Dimopoulos says industry wants greater flexibility in the scheduling of work hours and rest.

"Many of the issues simply reflect the ‘teething problems’ that are commonly experienced with major new reforms, as well as the change in culture from one that holds drivers solely accountable for fatigue management to one that holds everyone in the supply chain accountable," he says.

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