WA won't deal on fatigue and productivity

Western Australia refuses to accept national regulations for fatigue management and higher mass limits

WA won't deal on fatigue and productivity
WA won't deal on fatigue and productivity
By Brad Gardner | May 19, 2011

Western Australia has walked away from the prospect of national fatigue management laws and uniform road access conditions by declaring it will keep its existing systems.

The state’s government baulked at the thought of adopting the fatigue management schemes used in the eastern states, preferring instead to be "a non-participating jurisdiction".

The government says West Australian trucking operators will continue working under current high productivity schemes instead of accepting an expansion of higher mass limits (HML).

"WA already has more productive vehicles than those running under HML, so there will be no gains for WA from expanding HML," it says.

It opposes the use of the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) and performance based standards (PBS), saying they will not improve productivity due to the extensive road access already available to West Australian companies.

Furthermore, Western Australia has rejected the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) in favour of keeping its state-based model in place. It says the system underpins its fatigue management guidelines, which are more flexible than those implemented in eastern states.

The government plans to impose local productivity variations once national regulations are introduced in 2013 to keep its mass limits conditions in place.

Its fatigue management scheme is expected to be dealt with under a mutual recognition policy with other jurisdictions.

Western Australia announced its position in a formal submission to the National Transport Commission (NTC) on a draft proposal for uniform heavy vehicle regulations where it also hinted that more changes were on the cards.

"Note that our comments do not list all items that we intend to vary through LPVs [local productivity variations] as these are being dealt with via a separate process," it says.

"We do however seek confirmation through our comments that the law will allow these variations to continue."

Due to its decision to reject the NHVAS, the government says drivers crossing into Western Australia will still need to be enrolled in multiple accreditation schemes.

"Because WA will be a non-participating jurisdiction for NHVAS, the situation outlined will not change," it says.

The government wants a guarantee that local productivity variations will remain in place and be periodically assessed to determine if they can be introduced in other jurisdictions.

The recommendation is likely to anger groups such as the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), which is concerned about allowing states and territories to deviate from what is intended to be a national law.

"It would be a concern for ALC if there is an expectation that a jurisdiction could not only allow for ‘productivity variations’ but also unilaterally insert its own provisions into the National Law," the ALC wrote in its submission to the NTC.

It wants a sunset clause inserted into the regulations so variations can no longer be made after a set date.

The government is also trying to scupper any attempt to allow interstate trucking companies to have cases heard in their home state if it relates to a matter that Western Australia has chosen not to participate in.

The submission wants a clause inserted into the regulations stating: "the relevant jurisdiction for appeals will remain the non-participating jurisdiction that made the original decision, regardless of the vehicle garaging address."

"It is not logical for another jurisdiction to review a decision that has been made under different legislation," the government says.

Although road friendly suspension systems have been a key requirement for some trucking operators in eastern attempting to gain road access, Western Australia has scoffed at their use.

"WA operates vehicles at higher mass limits without the requirement for road-friendly suspension systems because we do not believe ‘road-friendly’ suspension systems are necessarily ‘road friendly’ unless they are very well maintained, which can be difficult," it writes in the submission.

Despite its wish to go solo on key aspects of national regulations, Western Australia says it supports the proposed reforms.

Once introduced, it says the regulations will benefit industry by developing standardised procedures for inspections and enforcement and allowing operators to register vehicles from their home state.

Western Australia runs its fatigue management system under occupational health and safety law. Drivers can work longer hours than their interstate counterparts due to the sparse distances they must cover.

The state’s trucking operators are adamant existing fatigue management requirements be retained once national regulations are introduced.

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