Authorities back EWDs, but trucking isn't convinced

Industry uncertain about electronic work diaries due to cost concerns and whether the devices will expose operators to greater scrutiny

Authorities back EWDs, but trucking isn't convinced
Authorities back EWDs, but trucking isn't convinced
By Brad Gardner | October 23, 2013

Authorities are lining up in favour of electronic work diaries (EWD), but the cost of the devices to trucking operators and concerns about increased attention from enforcement agencies may hamper take-up rates.

The final report from a New South Wales trial of the devices positions them as an effective tool to manage driver fatigue but highlights the hurdles governments will need to overcome to convince the industry to ditch paper work diaries in favour of the electronic option.

The EWD trial involving NSW Government agencies, Transport Certification Australia (TCA) and trucking operators found the devices were feasible from economic, technical, operational and regulatory perspectives.

EWDs automatically record a driver’s work and rest times and provide records for authorities, and governments want to introduce them as a voluntary alternative to paper diaries.

The report, released today, shows overwhelming support (around 80 per cent) among enforcement authorities for the diaries, but reaction from industry is mixed.

While some transport operators showed interest in adopting the diaries, they added that the cost of equipment, ongoing fees, concerns about enforcement toward small breaches and the perception of excess scrutiny would influence their decision.

"Smaller operators and those in the livestock industry in particular indicated that they would be unlikely to consider an EWD due to the limited perceived benefits and concerns about increased regulatory scrutiny which they believe will result in increased enforcement activity," the report states.

"From the perspective of the transport industry there remain outstanding issues with respect to enforcement and sanctions under an EWD. This is likely to impact take up of EWDs."

The report says operators will need to hand over $1,200 for an in-vehicle unit, plus $500 for installation. An ongoing monthly fee of $20 per unit will apply, the report adds.

"In addition there will be costs to Transport Operators for establishing management reporting systems to enable the review of data from IVUs [in-vehicle units]," the report states.

According to the report, a small survey of operators found they would be willing to pay up to $500 for an EWD.

In a benefit for trucking firms, the report says the diaries will reduce the amount of data operators need to capture by around 66 per cent due to drivers no longer needing to complete and maintain paper records.

But there is a drawback.

"By contrast, data management costs increase by 80 to 500 per cent due to the cost of in-vehicle equipment and operator back office systems and processes required to support an EWD," the report says.

Drivers who took part in the trial reported benefits in using the diaries to monitor compliance with fatigue laws.

"They appreciated the provision of information to assist them in planning and viewed the device as reducing the effort required to manage fatigue rule complexity," the report says.

The report modelled a variety of take-up rates and found that the lowest level (1 per cent of the industry) of involvement will deliver a $7.5 million economic benefit over five years compared to sticking with paper work diaries.

A low take-up rate increases the economic benefit to $206 million, while involvement from 41 per cent of the industry will deliver $1.2 billion.

The report says the economic benefits mainly stem from an increase in efficiency due to the time saved in entry and management costs associated with paper work diaries for drivers and operators and roadside enforcement for authorised officers.

"The time involved in roadside review of work and rest records decreases by around 80 per cent under an EWD," the report says.

It goes on to say authorities view technology as a necessary compliance tool due to the combination of limited resources and a growing freight task.

"The increased use of technology and data to analyse behaviour and target resources where they are most effective was universally supported," the report says.

Transport ministers earlier this year backed the use of voluntary electronic diaries and tasked the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and the National Transport Commission (NTC) with developing an implementation plan.

The report estimates an initial set-up cost of $9.9 million.

NHVR CEO Richard Hancock says he is glad Australia will begin using technology that has been introduced in other parts of the world.

"Australia is normally a global leader in road transport innovation and yet an early type of electronic work diary has been in use in Europe for many years, and newer types are now entering use in the United States. It’s time for Australia to reclaim our international leadership position," he says.

"The specifications developed in this pilot will see us leap ahead of what’s in place overseas."

In releasing the report today, NSW Centre for Road Safety General Manager Marg Prendergast sung the praises of EWDs.

"The pilot found there were safety and productivity benefits for regulators and operators after initial set-up costs of electronic work diaries, and that more reliable work and rest data would make it easier for drivers and operators to comply with fatigue rules and address compliance risks and inefficiencies," she says.

The pilot study involved the Roads and Maritime Services, the Centre for Road Safety, Transport Certification Australia and trucking operators.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay says he looks forward to EWDs contributing to safer drivers and safer roads.

"It is anticipated that the introduction of electronic work diaries will make a positive contribution to fatigue management, and potentially lead to fewer fatigued heavy vehicle drivers on our roads," he says.

"If there are fewer fatigued heavy vehicle drivers on our roads, there should be a reduction in casualty crashes involving heavy vehicles."

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