More leeway for trucking under fatigue reforms

Calls for trucking operators to be given greater leeway under fatigue management laws

By Brad Gardner | March 24, 2011

Trucking operators nationwide will be given greater leeway to comply with fatigue management laws if proposals to reform the system are accepted.

An independent expert panel established to resolve cross-border regulatory inconsistencies wants jurisdictions to adopt a South Australian provision to bolster the defence of operators accused of breaching their fatigue obligations.

South Australia amended fatigue laws when they were introduced in 2008 to remove the provision that automatically holds a trucking operator guilty of a fatigue offence if the driver fails to carry the correct accreditation documents.

The amendment means operators can avoid sanctions if they show they took all reasonable steps to ensure the driver complied.

The draft regulatory impact statement on national heavy vehicle laws released by the National Transport Commission (NTC) last month says the panel believes the South Australian model will reduce the burden on trucking operators.

"The principle objective of a shift from the model law towards the South Australian model is fairness to the operator," the NTC says.

"It is recommended to have a similar provision in the national law."

The panel is also attempting to allow truck drivers to travel for 45 minutes beyond their required rest time to find a suitable area to stop. The measure was originally in the model law, but Victoria and NSW removed it.

"Their reasoning was that the defence is too difficult to enforce and drivers and schedulers should take account of the availability of suitable rest places when scheduling trips," the NTC says.

But like NSW dogged defence of its ‘three strikes’ policy , the panel says there is no proof to justify the stance.

"The expert panel believes that the defence is reasonable and has seen no evidence that supports the exclusion of the defence from the national law," the NTC says.

All states and territories are currently working to create a single set of national heavy vehicle regulations by 2013 to replace the 368 existing variations.

NTC CEO Nick Dimopoulos says the reforms could save $12.4 billion over 20 years. A heavy vehicle regulator will be based in Queensland to oversee the laws and will have offices throughout Australia.

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