ALRTA 2014: EWDs to be phased in gradually

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Brad Gardner

Electronic work diaries will be gradually introduced in the next one to two years, ALRTA conference told

ALRTA 2014: EWDs to be phased in gradually
Slow and steady: NTC CEO Paul Retter says electronic work diaries will be phased in.


Electronic work diaries will be phased in gradually to ensure the introduction of the new technology is as smooth as possible for the trucking industry.

National Transport Commission (NTC) CEO Paul Retter told the 2014 Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) conference the industry could expect to see the devices introduced from next year or 2016.  

Retter says a gradual introduction will allow regulators to make necessary tweaks, ensure adequate training has been carried out and that all parties have an understanding of rules governing the diaries.    

"We’ve got a long way to go before you will see that being rolled out in a regulatory sense. And by that I mean probably a year or two," he says.  

"We don’t think we’re going to see a big bang approach to EWDs. It will be some form of phased approach where we do an initial rollout to see how it works."  

Retter says the industry should experience a "reasonably smooth" rollout.  

He is due to meet with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), Transport Certification Australia (TCA) and the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) this Friday to work out how to develop a detailed implementation plan for the devices.  

The TCA and the RMS were involved in a trial of electronic diaries in 2012.  

Transport ministers have agreed to introduce electronic diaries as a voluntary alternative to paper-based reporting.  

Retter says it is difficult to know if governments will eventually decide to mandate the devices, which are highly accurate.    

"I think that option is always there for government," Retter says.

"I think government is serious about saying it wants to do this in a voluntary sense and I know the NHVR is committed to a voluntary implementation, a phased implementation and we’re going to be working with them and we will engage with industry as part of that process."  

During the ALRTA conference, Retter touched on the debate about providing some leniency to truck drivers using electronic diaries.  

Transport ministers last month agreed to an NTC proposal to give drivers an eight-minute tolerance in a 24-hour period in case they inadvertently go over their allotted driving hours or need to travel a short distance to find a suitable rest area.

Retter says he faced calls from police to show zero tolerance, while sections of the industry wanted a 35 to 40 minute tolerance.

"In the end I settled on eight minutes in aggregate in a 24-hour period and we will review that amongst other policy settings over a two year period once we start actually implementing EWDs [electronic work diaries]," he says.



Retter also told the conference police in South Australia and Victoria are still fuming about the change to time counting rules under fatigue management.  

The change brought both states in line with the system used in Queensland and New South Wales, but Retter says police from SA and Victoria have continued to advocate for a return to the previous model.  

Victoria Police claims the change now allows drivers under the 12-hour standard fatigue management regime to work more than 16 hours in a 24-hour period.

Transport ministers and the NTC have refused to buckle, however, with Retter saying there is no justification to revert to the old system.    

"Ministers have made it very clear unless there is evidence that there are patterns of driving which are demonstrably risky and where we can back it up with evidence that they are not at this stage prepared to change the law," he says.

"And I was not convinced by the police argument that there was prevalent set of operational driving patterns that actually gave me cause for concern or sufficient concern that there was a need to change the law."  

Retter says the previous system used in SA and Victoria was complicated and made it hard to understand if a breach of fatigue management had occurred.

He adds that his refusal to support a return to the previous time counting rule has left him unpopular with police in Victoria.    

"Now let me tell you I try to not drive in Victoria as a result of the debate. I’ve told my wife that she doesn’t know me when we go driving because the reality is that the police are pretty unhappy with that outcome," he joked.

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