NTC seeks fatigue flexibility under EWD regime


NTC proposes giving drivers using electronic work diaries an eight-minute buffer under fatigue laws to prevent infringements for small breaches

NTC seeks fatigue flexibility under EWD regime
NTC seeks fatigue flexibility under EWD regime
By Brad Gardner | October 24, 2103

A measure allowing truck drivers to exceed prescribed driving hours by almost 10 minutes could be introduced alongside electronic work diaries (EWD).

The National Transport Commission (NTC) wants lawmakers to allow those who adopt EWDs, which record work and rest times, to be able to drive up to eight minutes above regulated driving hours without having a breach recorded.

The proposal, contained in a discussion paper outlining the regulatory changes needed to prepare Australia for EWDs, is in response to concerns the accuracy of the electronic devices could lead to drivers copping fines for minor fatigue breaches.

"The NTC suggests that this provides an appropriate and reasonable balance between enforcement and industry concerns, and removes a key disincentive to use EWDs without substantially increasing the fatigue risk," the discussion paper says of the proposal.

"A number of industry stakeholders have expressed strong concern that drivers may be infringed for very small breaches of fatigue rules that could be tracked by EWDs (e.g. for being a few minutes over work time or under rest time)."

The NTC says advice it received indicated allowing drivers some tolerance was unlikely to pose a significant fatigue risk.

A pilot study of EWDs was carried out from 2011 to 2013 and found that the devices were feasible as a voluntary alternative to paper diaries.

The NTC says a number of options were considered during the pilot to address concerns about minor breaches, including setting a tolerance, changing penalties or adopting alternative compliance approaches.

It says none of the parties involved in the study, which included New South Wales Government agencies and trucking operators, could reach an agreement other than to maintain a jurisdiction-based approach to the use of discretion.


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The country’s transport ministers support the introduction of EWDs, and the NTC and the NHVR have been tasked with preparing an implementation plan.

However, the NTC says a number of regulatory issues need to be resolved before EWDs can be introduced.

Along with addressing concerns over drivers being pinged for minor breaches, the discussion paper canvasses privacy and surveillance issues and how driving time should be counted.

Under the existing system, work and rest time is counted in 15-minute blocks.
Drivers must round up when calculating work and down when calculating rest.

The NTC does not believe the requirement is necessary when using EWDs due to their accuracy. It says the rule should only apply to drivers using paper work diaries.

"Current rounding rules require a driver to count work and rest in 15-minute periods, with bias towards rest. This means that regulated time recorded in the work diary may not reflect actual time," the NTC paper says.

"In contrast, EWDs permit extremely accurate time counting."

The paper also argues for changes to how far back enforcement officers can go when combing through a driver’s records to see if there has been a breach of fatigue laws.

Currently, authorities can look back over a 28-day period to detect breaches, but EWDs will be able to potentially hold an unlimited amount of data.

"It is recommended that the compliance assessment software allow enforcement officers to examine 28 days of EWD records by default, however, allow officers to examine up to three months of records if required," the NTC says.

"Broader investigations of operators and record keepers could continue to look at longer periods as they do today."

The NTC says EWDs have privacy implications for operators, drivers and authorities, and may produce information that may be subject to privacy law.

It says actively involving stakeholders in the design of privacy features of an EWD, notifying drivers of what is happening to their personal information and introducing a uniform approach towards managing personal information could mitigate risks.

"The NTC recommends a privacy by design approach when developing the EWD system. This will ensure that privacy protections are integrated into the system rather than mitigated after the design is finalised," the discussion paper says.


EWDs TO BENEFIT ALL: NTC
The discussion paper says key features of EWDs include increased accuracy through global satellite tracking, increased volume of data and increased currency of data because records will be transmitted to an EWD service provider within 15 minutes.

Furthermore, it says enforcement officers will be able to access data remotely.

"These features have the potential to significantly improve fatigue compliance in the industry and to transform enforcement practices," the NTC says.

NTC Chairman Greg Martin says EWDs will be an improvement over paper diaries.

"Drivers will save time and be less likely to be exposed to infringements for misunderstanding fatigue requirements; operators will be able to gain productivity improvements and agencies will be able to enforce fatigue provisions more efficiently, with greater confidence in the data," he says.

The discussion paper, which is open to feedback until December 3, was released in conjunction with a final report on the EWD pilot.

The pilot found strong support for EWDs among authorities, but the trucking industry raised concerns about costs and being fined for minor breaches as potential barriers to them adopting the technology.

"We are interested to hear from operators, drivers, and the wider community on their views on these recommendations and any other issues which they feel need to be addressed to support the voluntary take-up of electronic record keeping," NTC CEO Paul Retter says.

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