Opinion: moving on fatigue reform

By: Warren Clark

A more sensible approach to fatigue management is needed before buy-in from Western Australia

Opinion: moving on fatigue reform
Warren Clark


NatRoad recently presented to a number of members and other operators in Perth.

The strong messages received include that Western Australian operators:

•  aren’t opposed to a national system but are only interested in participating if it makes sense, which it currently doesn’t;

•  feel as if they are ignored by the national bodies involved in policy development and in administering the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL); and

•  have many unpleasant experiences associated with the HVNL and its enforcement, to the point that some no longer seek work outside WA.

One of the topics highlighted was the need to reform the "national" fatigue laws as the way they are applied is a major problem for Western Australian transport operators.

The main difficulty comes about because of a provision in the HVNL that affects Western Australian heavy vehicle drivers who travel from Western Australian to the eastern states.

The HVNL in s245(2) says: If, within the last seven days, the driver has spent any work time in a participating jurisdiction, any time spent by the driver in the non-participating jurisdiction must be treated in the same way as it would have been treated if the time had been spent in a participating jurisdiction.

Read Warren Clark's column on accessing driver records, here

This essentially means that work activities outside of participating jurisdictions (i.e. in WA and the NT) are counted when the driver works in a participating jurisdiction. Because of the differences between the WA fatigue laws and the fatigue management rules in the HVNL, compliance with s245 means that adopting the more restrictive HVNL limits is required. This includes keeping a national work diary with all its pedantic requirements.

In WA, there is a requirement for the fatigue record to be "set out in a clear and systematic manner". As there are no prescribed forms or standard record keeping books for this purpose, the format of the record could be varied according to the type of workplace and the nature of the work, which is sensible.

The application of s245 can be problematic as, in our understanding, if a driver who is operating under BFM or Standard hours must work within the HVNL rules, they would be unable to reach Perth from the SA/WA border in one shift. 

We believe that the journey requires around a 15.5 hr work shift that is only available under the AFM regime or the WA Fatigue Management regime.

That is patently absurd. In practice it means the driver being forced to take a second additional sleep rest on the return leg of the journey when a better rest could be obtained by returning to home base. If the driver is not fatigued surely this is a better outcome?

Currently, there is a review of the HVNL. We are pressing that the HVNL encompass the WA fatigue system. That change would bring flexibility and greater levels of uniformity to the law.

In the meantime, NatRoad is able to assist with resolving issues with the national work diary. 

Reform can’t come soon enough.


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