Opinion: Fatigue changes must cut red tape

By: Warren Clark

The prime minister’s ‘animal spirits’ pledge must become a reality

Opinion: Fatigue changes must cut red tape
Warren Clark


On 22 July 2019, NatRoad lodged its submission to the National Transport Commission on the subject of fatigue management. One of the issues that NatRoad emphasised was the importance of reducing the administrative burden that the current system imposes on operators and drivers. Reducing red tape should be a priority in looking at reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

In June this year, the Morrison government answered critics who said it lacked an agenda when the prime minister made a major speech promising to slash government red tape to unlock investment.

Prime minister Scott Morrison emphasised that regulatory and bureaucratic barriers that stop businesses investing need to be lifted to "provoke the much needed ‘animal spirits’ in our economy".

"Removing what governments identify as excessive or outdated regulation is one thing. Whether we are really focusing on the barriers that matter to business in getting investments and projects off the ground is another," Morrison says.

"By focusing on regulation from the viewpoint of business, we will identify the regulations and bureaucratic processes that impose the largest costs on key sectors of the economy and the biggest hurdles to letting those investments flow."

Read Warren Clarks experiences with Western Australian industry on reform, here

NatRoad welcomes an examination of regulation from the point of view of business, a perspective that must be front and centre in the review of the HVNL.

Throwing out the outmoded diary system with its strict rules about signatures and straight lines is a good way to start the shedding of red tape.

In its submission, NatRoad says that the Western Australian method of record-keeping for fatigue management should be adopted in all states.

So long as the records are "clear and systematic" those who seek to enforce the law have sufficient material against which to make an appropriate check rather than focusing on details that do not bear on the risk sought to be controlled: fatigue.

The form of the record should be irrelevant so long as it is accessible and able to be understood. So, any record that has the characteristics of being clear and systematic should be within the scope of the law, as it is in Western Australia.

The perspective of looking at issues from the point of view of business must also be translated to the construction of infrastructure.

In Australia there are insufficient rest areas for heavy vehicles so that operators are able to properly manage fatigue. One of the barriers to business that the prime minister wants to focus on is the lack of rest areas.

NatRoad submitted that to the NTC that additional rest breaks for higher risk work is one solution to the increased risk of fatigue-related incidents during certain times e.g. when driving at night. To work, this solution would need greater investment by governments in properly structured rest areas that have a full range of amenities.

NatRoad believes that government must mandate rest area construction along new or remediated road structures so that there are adequate rest areas throughout Australia’s road network.

Rest area construction should be a mandatory component of the construction of new roads and where roads are upgraded.


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