ALRTA ‘cautiously optimistic’ about fatigue reform

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Brad Gardner

Lobby group welcomes prospect of new fatigue schemes as it pushes for nationwide 160km work diary exemption.

ALRTA ‘cautiously optimistic’ about fatigue reform
Liz Schmidt says she is "cautiously optimistic" about the introduction of flexible fatigue management arrangements for the livestock and rural sector.


The body representing livestock and rural transport operators has welcomed the prospect of impending fatigue management reform as it pushes for an expansion of work diary exemptions.

Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) president Liz Schmidt says she is "cautiously optimistic" about the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) plans to introduce a new fatigue management regime tailored toward the livestock and rural sector.

The NHVR last month proposed three new schemes to account for the specific operating conditions the sector contends with.

The first scheme, due to be introduced by the end of the year, will allow the industry to schedule drivers to work for 12 consecutive days in return for an increased number of short breaks. The other two schemes are currently awaiting approval from fatigue management experts.

"We’re waiting to see the final draft of it all. What we’ve seen we’re very happy with," Schmidt says.

"We are cautiously optimistic and we’ve had a lot of input into this. There has been a lot of industry consultation and I think that if there was more industry consultation across a number of areas we would all be better off."

Her comments follow the ALRTA’s recent recommendation to the NHVR for a work diary exemption introduced in New South Wales and Queensland to be made national.

Both states exempt drivers hauling freight for primary producers from filling out a work diary if they are working within 160km of their base.

The limit is 100km for other truck drivers.

The ALRTA says the 100km exemption works well in urban and metropolitan environments but rural transporters operate in a much larger local area.

In a briefing note on the proposed 160km exemption, the group states: "The ‘local area’ for rural transporters is larger in a rural setting where congestion is lower, speed limits are higher and the economic base spread more broadly."

"Thus, a more realistic radius is required to promote regulatory equity for operators in urban and rural Australia."

Schmidt says a national 160km exemption is safe and manageable and will give rural and livestock operators greater flexibility and reduce their administrative burden.

"A little bit of red tape removal and just allowing us to do that extra 60km makes a big difference to what we have to do," she says.

"There’s got to be flexibility across the whole transport industry because we don’t do all the same task."

Schmidt says the the livestock and rural industry is a test case for the new fatigue management arrangements.

"We are the guinea pig in all of this," she says.

"Eventually if we can prove that it’s doable and it’s right other sectors of the industry will be able to take very similar regimes."

The NHVR has the power to introduce new fatigue management schemes to suit the needs of specific sectors.

The second scheme under consideration for rural and livestock transporters will include allowing drivers to work a long day and then one short day with a recovery day afterwards.

The third scheme is aimed at catering to transport operators that find it too difficult to stick to a rigid schedule.

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