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We’ll consider flexibility on loading laws: Riggs

Government opens the door to giving bulk transporters leeway on loading restrictions

By Brad Gardner | November 1, 2010

A proposal to give bulk transporters leeway on loading restrictions will be considered as part of the move to national trucking regulations.

Nationals Senator John Williams has gained a commitment from a senior federal transport bureaucrat to consider changes to existing enforcement practices for grain loading.

During Senate Estimates hearings, Williams referred to a grain carrier who was fined $350 for being 20kg overweight on one axle.

“But what happened is the grain shuffled back a bit in the front trailer as he was driving along. So they almost charged him again for his load moving. This is just outrageous. And so he paid the fine and on he went,” Williams says.

He suggested drivers should not be fined if their vehicles are slightly overweight and not causing damage to the road network.

While saying details on compliance and enforcement under national regulations have not been finalised, the Executive Director of Surface Transport Policy at the Department of Infrastructure and Transport Leslie Riggs responded: “We will certainly put it on the table, Senator.”

Although national regulations are being dealt with by the states, the Federal Government is involved in the process.

Under national reforms, a regulator will be operating by 2013 to streamline cross-border inconsistencies. It will be based in Queensland with offices nationwide.

During proceedings, Williams raised concerns about NSW loading restrictions being adopted because they are not as generous as other states such as Western Australia and Queensland.

The issue is a key hurdle in the adoption of national regulations and has been sent to an expert panel of transport safety and regulation specialists to deal with.

“I can assure you that the reason this is so difficult is because states like WA and Queensland are insisting that they retain their more permissive higher productivity approaches. And one of the things that we have got underway now to try and get around this is a number of variations where there are differences,” Infrastructure and Transport Secretary Mike Mrdak told Williams.

He says the panel will work to create a common set of regulations that maintain productivity without jeopardising safety.

Williams also wants changes to fatigue management laws, which he claims are causing people to leave the industry in frustration.

He says truck drivers should be allowed to drive home if they are within 100km of their residence after completing their allotted work hours.

Under existing conditions, drivers cannot drive home if they have reached their allotted work hours for the day.

An owner-driver recently wrote to the National Transport Commission complaining of having to use “hot, nosy truck stops” in Brisbane because he is prevented from driving home to the Sunshine Coast.

The NTC is currently looking at tinkering with the basic fatigue management module (BFM) to make it more flexible.

It is looking at scrapping the mandatory 24-hour break after 84 hours of work and replacing it with a 48-hour break after 144 hours or 12 days of work.

Although fatigue experts have rejected the proposal, the NTC also raised the prospect of drivers splitting their rest breaks into two blocks.

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