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Opinion: fighting for effective fatigue laws

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Fatigue laws must treat truck drivers like humans – not machines

Opinion: fighting for effective fatigue laws
Ben Maguire


Any changes to fatigue management in the national truck laws must treat drivers like humans – not machines.

Drivers have told us that the current system simply does not work. It’s complex, confusing and inflexible.

I’ve been on the road with some of the amazing men and women who keep our country running and have seen first-hand the ridiculousness of these laws. Not only are the laws frustrating, they do not support good safety management.

For these reasons, the Australian Trucking Association(ATA) is calling for the new truck laws to deliver more flexible fatigue management, simplified rules and recordkeeping, and a reduction in the penalties for work and rest hour record-keeping offences.

Truck drivers are human. They are not machines.

Their fatigue should be treated to suit each individual’s needs. We must do away with the current ‘one-size-fits all’ approach.

In our submission to the national truck law review on effective fatigue management, the ATA set out a new fatigue management plan that would deliver substantial benefits, including an extra hour for drivers using our new version of standard hours to get home with sensible risk controls, easier to use work diaries with less risk of getting fined for paperwork mistakes, and more flexibility under a performance-based framework for operators to manage fatigue as a risk.

Operators in the performance-based framework would need to be accredited under the ATA’s TruckSafe accreditation system or a similar scheme.

Our plan also includes a length incentive for operators that fit wider sleeper cabs, as proposed by Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) CEO Gary Mahon at the 2019 NatRoad Conference.

This plan has had a great amount of input from our members and Safety Committee who have shared their wealth of knowledge and expertise on the issues that matter most to industry.

The plan also drew on the feedback received from Australian trucking operators. Earlier this year at our Trucking Australia conference, our delegates, including truck drivers, came together to share their experiences and insights into what the new fatigue laws should look like.

This positive collaboration have led to the development of an approach that, if implemented, would increase safety and improve driver health, reduce the compliance burden for both performance-based and prescriptively regulated businesses, and enable businesses in the performance-based system to adopt new fatigue management technologies, rather than waiting for lawmakers to catch up.

Our plan would deliver more flexibility for drivers who just want to get home or to a suitable rest area, making sure they are no longer penalised for trivial paperwork errors.

Additionally, our plan would provide regulators and the community with the compliance assurance they need.

As the truck law review continues, the ATA is working with the National Transport Commission (NTC) and trade media to continue to seek feedback from drivers.

Gathering feedback from truck drivers during the review process is crucial as they are the ones dealing with these laws on a day-to-day basis, but we keep hearing that they aren’t being given the right opportunities to share their thoughts.

Every single piece of feedback we receive will be sent to the NTC for the inclusion in the review.

That is our promise. We’re very appreciative of their flexibility and willingness to accept the important feedback after the submission due dates.

It’s vital we change the current approach to fatigue management in order to reduce fatigue-related incidents and deliver Australia’s road transport task efficiently and safely.

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