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NSW gives ground on fatigue under national regs

NSW grants extra half hour of work time under fatigue laws, but retains ability to impose extra conditions on trucking

By Brad Gardner | September 13, 2013

New South Wales will grant an extra half hour of work time under a new fatigue management regime to be introduced when national heavy vehicle regulations begin.

In a change to the Heavy Vehicle (Adoption of National Law) Amendment Bill made yesterday before the Bill passed the Legislative Assembly, the NSW Government gave some ground on fatigue management to bring the State in line with other jurisdictions.

NSW currently limits work time to a maximum of 15 hours for trucking firms accredited under advanced fatigue management (AFM), which is due to be replaced with a new risk-based classification system once the NHVR is fully functioning.

Victoria, Queensland and South Australia agreed to a 15.5-hour limit under the new system, but NSW initially clung to its existing work restrictions. The amendment to the Bill removes reference to the 15-hour work limit.

“This means that a driver would, for the first time, under tightly controlled circumstances, be able to work 15.5 hours in a 24-hour period. This is an increase of half an hour compared to what is currently in place in NSW,” Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Roads Stuart Ayres says.

However, the amendment also guarantees the NSW roads minister will be able to impose extra conditions beyond those that the NHVR’s fatigue experts may stipulate when accrediting trucking operators to use the scheme.

This includes specifying different work hours for drivers while they are working within NSW borders and requiring compliance with additional standards or business rules.

“It is expected that the NSW minister would only exercise his ability to apply additional conditions in those circumstances when an accreditation approved by the national regulator is considered to be inappropriate or unsafe,” Liberal MP Jai Rowell told Parliament.

Ayres says the measures are necessary because the new fatigue management module has not been trialled.

“There is more information to be gathered, for example, on how risk parameters interact with other factors and which countermeasures are appropriate,” he says.

“The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will conduct a post-implementation surveillance review of the risk classification schemes at 12, 24 and 36 month intervals following its implementation.”

NSW has left the door open to scrapping the power to foist extra requirements on operators.

“Once the evaluation of the new approach is complete and it has been demonstrated that it effectively manages fatigue, the removal of the NSW minister’s ability to apply conditions will be considered,” Ayres says.

He says NSW wants to be at the forefront of trialling the new fatigue management scheme and looks forward to working with the NHVR.

“It is intended that the combination of the application of the national scheme and a system of NSW conditions, where appropriate and necessary, will allow for the most effective pilot of the risk classification approach to be conducted,” Ayres says.

He highlighted the prevalence of heavy vehicles on NSW roads as a reason for the extra fatigue management safeguards, saying the State’s network carries about 60 per cent of the national freight task and that more than 30 per cent of casualty crashes involve interstate drivers.

“Given that NSW is geographically located in the middle of the eastern seaboard, it is more likely that fatigued drivers will find themselves within NSW borders after commencing journeys in neighbouring states,” Ayres says.

The Opposition supported the amendments to the Bill, which has now been despatched to the Legislative Council for it to vote on.

The Bill follows passage earlier this year of legislation to adopt national heavy vehicle regulations in NSW. If passed, the Bill will preserve a number of NSW-specific provisions covering livestock loading, demerit points, speed limiters and work diary exemptions.

The NHVR, which is currently running in Queensland with limited responsibilities, is due to begin enforcing national regulations next month. Western Australia has not signed up to the reforms.

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