There has been a an unsettling coincidence this week around the topic of fatigue, a few days after a new AFM digital tool was announced by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to make it easier for operators to develop their own Advanced Fatigue Management program digitally through tools available on the website.
Only a few days later, the enforcement arm of the NHVR has come out with a the announcement of an enforcement operation targeting fatigue breaches, which was triggered in New South Wales, after a considerable number of penalty notices were issued in that state and they were found to be linked to fatigue related offences.
Now, from my point of view, there seems to be a major dichotomy going on here and a divergence in how the trucking industry and the regulator are working on the whole issue of fatigue. It has to be stated that the reason that the fatigue regime for trucking in Australia is in such a dire state is because of the inaction, or the inability, of the National Transport Commission to come up with some sensible options for the development of the fatigue regulations in its Heavy Vehicle National Law debacle.
We are in a situation where there isn’t a viable or credible fatigue management law, which everybody can work around, because we don’t know what that new law will be, when they finally get it to us sometime in the future. All of this uncertainty just breeds more issues.
At the same time, the NHVR is carrying on with its task, which is to make it as good as possible at the moment, therefore, they have come up with this new tool to create an AFM plan. The problem being that the the rules around AFM are expected to change, but, we just don’t know when.
Looking at this from the other side, uncertainty about fatigue laws and fatigue regulations has clearly led to some people pushing the envelope in a way that has led to fatigue related offences becoming a priority for the roadside enforcement of the NHVR.
We now have a ridiculous situation, where the NHVR is trying to drive the industry forward into a more responsible and more flexible fatigue regime. But, because the heavy vehicle national law reform was bungled so badly, they have enforcement officers who are having to work with the old fatigue management schemes. which clearly haven’t been working very well for anybody at any point.
This has led to people cutting corners, people lacking any understanding of exactly how the regulations work, and also, enforcement officers not being up to speed with how the whole system works.
So what we do end up with is a dog’s breakfast, where some people in the industry are striding on ahead, heading down this road with new AFM schemes coming along, while others in the industry are being held back by the fact that there is now going to be a blitz on fatigue in New South Wales, which is just going to cause more angst and probably create issues down the track for both the regulator and the industry.