Fatigue consultant rubbishes proposed AFM changes

Specialist consultant slams proposal to overhaul fatigue management and accuses NSW of derailing operator attempts to gain AFM accreditation

By Brad Gardner | March 30, 2011

A specialist fatigue consultant has slammed a proposal to overhaul the advanced fatigue management (AFM) scheme, labelling it an attempt to dissuade the trucking industry from using it.

Governments are being advised to go back to the drawing board on AFM, which was introduced in 2008 in a bid to give businesses the flexibility to create their own fatigue management systems.

Truck drivers were permitted to work up to 16 hours a day in some jurisdictions as long as countermeasures were introduced to offset fatigue. Governments are now being urged to impose conditions after 12 hours of work under national heavy vehicle regulations to be introduced in 2013.

Fatigue consultant Dick Kyle says operators will not bother trying to gain AFM accreditation because basic fatigue management (BFM) already permits drivers to work up to 14 hours a day.

"To talk about countermeasures after 12 hours under AFM when you can do 14 hours under BFM is ridiculous," Kyle says.

"It [the proposal] will achieve what NSW wants to do – knock out AFM."

Kyle is particularly critical of the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), accusing it of stifling operator attempts to gain AFM accreditation when applications go before the Fatigue Authorities Panel.

The panel was established in 2008 to grant AFM applications and is made up of representatives from jurisdictions that implemented fatigue management laws.

Kyle claims the Centre for Road Safety, which operates within the RTA, has intervened to derail AFM applications because it does not support the scheme.

"We give and we give and we give, and it ultimately gets to being BFM under another name," Kyle says.

"No matter what you put up [the Director for the Centre for Road Safety] Soames Job has been quite vocal that NSW doesn’t have AFM."

Kyle has backed the Western Australian fatigue management model, which operates under occupational health and safety law.

"It’s a sensible model. The whole thing is about people being able to be flexible," he says.

Released last month, the Heavy Vehicle National Law Draft Regulatory Impact Statement says AFM should be based on the 12-hour work model because scientific evidence shows that is when fatigue-risks escalate.

The document says operators that want their drivers to work beyond 12 hours should offset the extra time by mandating a longer rest period or ensuring the work is carried out during daylight hours.

According to the document, only 21 operators have been approved since AFM’s inception, well below a 2006 assumption that 11,300 drivers in 5500 fleets would become accredited.

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