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Road transport industry on complex fatigue rules

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad), the Western Roads Federation and the Northern Territory Road Transport Association have joined forces in making a submission to the National Transport Commission (NTC) on two fatigue-related issues where there is a lack of clarity in the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

The first issue was initially raised by NatRoad after receiving complaints from members that drivers are being fined when transitioning from two-up driving arrangements to solo driving.

“Based on the current law, drivers operating under a two-up arrangement are unable to transition to solo driving unless they are fully compliant with solo work and rest hours or complete a reset rest break of 48 hours plus two consecutive night breaks. This means that there is no incentive for drivers to operate under a two-up arrangement,” said NatRoad CEO, Warren Clark.

“We believe a nationally agreed policy or a legislative amendment is needed for regulating work and rest hours when transitioning between two-up and solo driving. Our proposed changes would improve productivity and reduce costs as long-distance trips can be completed in less time,” he said.

The second issue relates to section 245 of the HVNL that requires drivers travelling into and out of Western Australia and the Northern Territory within a seven-day period to comply with work and rest hours under the HVNL. 

“There is a lot of confusion amongst operators travelling in and out of Western Australia about these requirements,” said Western Roads Federation CEO, Cam Dumesny.

Louise Bilato, Executive Officer of the Northern Territory Road Transport Association, noted that some operators who are not based in the NT assume that the fatigue requirements when they enter the NT are less stringent than what is required under the HVNL, which is not the case. 

“The NT maintains a performance-based approach to managing driver fatigue under its work health and safety laws,” said Bilato. “Our submission does not intend to debate whether the HVNL is superior or inferior to the fatigue management requirements in the NT or WA, however, the different interpretations of safe work and rest hours has created considerable administrative complications for the industry and for regulators.”

Western Australia has a combined work health and safety and transport law-based fatigue management system for heavy vehicle drivers. It is mandatory that all transport operators who travel into WA have WA Heavy Vehicle Accreditation (WAHVAS), including fully compliant third-party audits. 

“We recognise that WAHVAS and NHVAS fatigue modules are compliant systems in their own right and drivers can continue to operate under them when they cross borders into the WA or the NT,” said Bilato. “However, if drivers operating under those systems choose to no longer adhere to them when crossing borders into WA or the NT then they must have an alternate safety management system in place to demonstrate how fatigue risk is mitigated.  Repeal of section 245 would not remove this obligation.”

The organisations highlighted that both these issues are yet another example of the fundamental problems with the highly prescriptive fatigue regulations under the HVNL which remain complex and difficult to comply with. The current reliance on prescriptive work and rest hours and on-road enforcement using logbooks is not the most effective way to manage fatigue, according to NatRoad.

“Given that the NTC has confirmed a complete review of the HVNL will be commenced later in 2018 and completed by the end of 2019 we anticipate that our feedback and recommendations will be used to inform more effective, interim, arrangements,” said Clark.

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