Archive, Industry News

NTC backs out of fatigue push in HVNL reform

Industry discontent stays at boiling point over cavalier treatment


The National Transport Commission (NTC) will advise transport ministers to leave weekly drivers hours alone, the industry public policy body has stated.

With government at several levels having taken heavy flak from the trucking industry and its supporters over an increasingly troubled Heavy Vehicle National Law reform process, indications are that it will fail to placate the trucking industry.

The NTC said it had listened to industry feedback, and sought the views of jurisdictions, and will not propose a reduction in weekly hours of truck drivers to ministers.

“A number of fatigue issues were on the table at our workshop this week, and it was important to hear firsthand from industry, in their own words, why the current outer weekly limits for fatigue are fit for purpose for Australia and its particular geography and supply chains,” NTC CEO and commissioner Dr Gillian Miles said.

The NTC had heard that reducing the weekly hours of truck drivers could have perverse safety and productivity outcomes.

Some long-haul drivers couldn’t get back home in a 60-hour work week, while others may need to find a second job to bridge the pay gap – defeating the safety intent.

“Since Monday’s workshop, the NTC has considered the useful insights as well as seeking views from all participating jurisdictions,” Miles said.

As a result, the NTC’s advice to the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers Meeting (ITMM) will be that the outer weekly limit for driving hours should remain at 72 hours.”

The NTC added that it continued to work closely with industry and jurisdictions as part of the Heavy Vehicle National Law Safety and Productivity Program to create a better national law.

It noted that jurisdiction representatives were also in attendance to hear directly from industry.

“The NTC will continue to work with industry and jurisdictions to ensure a flexible and tiered approach to fatigue management that is suited to Australian conditions,” Dr Miles said.

The NTC has worked closely with industry since the HVNL review in 2019. It is through combining research and engagement from multiple sources that the NTC will be best placed to prepare detailed advice, and a draft law, for Ministers.

“The NTC will continue with a series of workshops because we need industry to be part of the conversation all the way through,” Miles said.

Many of the statements will be seen in industry circles as beside the point.

One central complaint put strongly relates to the segregating of jurisdictional officials from industry representatives.

Though the NTC insists this was part of the direction of ministers for the review, industry argues that the lack of direct and detailed discussion with those tasked with administering the reformed law will lead to unintended negative consequences and failure to reach the reforms goal of increasing safety and productivity.

Read how the HVNL reform entered the political realm, here

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) continued its hard line.

“The review of the national truck law has proved to be a waste of time and money. We need to start again,” ATA chair David Smith said this week.

The review started in November 2018, after the ATA and its members pointed out the problems with the existing law.

The ATA also highlighted that the industry’s productivity had slumped since the law was introduced. 

Smith noted the ATA had lodged 11 detailed policy submissions, each involving a review of best practice and consultation with its members.

“We spent tens of thousands of dollars on consultants. In some cases, we provided the NTC with draft legislation that could have been introduced into parliament immediately,” Smith said. 

“It was all for nothing.

“In the three years since it started, the review has not resulted in a single change to the national truck law or its regulations.”

When they meet in December, Australia’s transport ministers should start again, the ATA urged.

“They should put together a panel of actual experts, supported by a small staff, to develop an approach to the national truck law based on best practice from around the world and your on‑the‑road insights,” Smith said.

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) underlined the industry’s united front, chastising the NTC for its unrealistic expectations.

ALRTA National president Scott McDonald said that the both the proposal and the consultation timeframe were naïve and unworkable.

“ALRTA is extremely disappointed that industry was given just one week to consider refined proposals relating to the Fatigue Management General Schedule.

“This timeframe was wholly inadequate for engaging grass roots members on an issue of core importance for the HVNL review,” McDonald said.

“Furthermore, all of industry was surprised to find that the proposed general schedule entirely failed to appropriately balance the fundamental HVNL objectives of safety and productivity. 

“It is almost unfathomable, that after three years of industry consultation, a general schedule would be proposed that immediately invoked a total rejection by industry.

“While ALRTA acknowledges that the proposed general schedule has been developed with reference to fatigue research, we assert that it was, and remains, possible for the NTC to develop a general schedule that fully aligns with ministerial directives while delivering a net improvement in both safety and productivity.

“The current proposal will negatively impact productivity, wages, return on capital, the viability of some journeys and driver shortages.

“With a limit of 12 hours per day of work time, it is not necessary to increase the long continuous rest break to eight hours or to introduce a new rule prohibiting driving after 14 hours from the end of a long rest break.

“These rules will reduce flexibility and motivate tired drivers to keep working instead of resting as and when they need to.

“Before this process can reasonably move forward, the general schedule must be rebalanced to take account of road transport operational realities in an Australian context.

“More generally, it is disappointing that the review has been underway for three years and we are still examining unbalanced, uncosted options with one week consultation timeframes.

“As a dedicated and mature transport policy commission, the NTC should have the experience and resources to do much better.”


Previous ArticleNext Article
  1. Australian Truck Radio Listen Live
Send this to a friend