The Australian trucking industry has been listening to discussions about fatigue management for a long time and now the NTC has come back with another set of proposals, the new, new fatigue management plan.
In introducing the topic of fatigue management at the Australian Trucking Association’s Trucking Australia 2023 event, Gary Mahon, CEO of the Queensland Trucking Association pointed to the 21st of November 1938, when the first fatigue law in this country were introduced.
The fatigue issue deliberations, at the moment, are all tied up with the long running and stuttering process towards reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), at a point 12 months after Ken Kanofski handed over his report on the HVNL reform debacle.
The original HVNL was introduced 11 years ago, with a review process beginning six years ago, which was seen to fail, prompting the report from Kanofski. At the moment we are in a situation where the jurisdictions are digesting his report, and the trucking industry waits for a new HVNL, frustrated by the extreme length of the process.
The whole area is fraught with arguments on all sides, from the fatigue experts specifying safe working behaviours, to trucking operators explaining what their customers want them to supply in terms of service and, more recently, those offering fatigue monitoring systems to bring state of the art technology solutions to further enhance safety.
The agency tasked with coming up with a possible solution, which will take the trucking industry forward while also satisfy the concerns of fatigue experts and safety advocates is the National Transport Commission. Speaking at Trucking Australia 2023, Aaron de Rosario Executive Leader of Regulatory Reform at the NTC gave the event a run down on the latest proposals.
“Let’s talk a bit of history,” said Aaron. “The journey, has been a very long lived continuing journey, to a new set of standard work and rest hours. Fatigue is an issue that was examined during the HVNL review, and transport operators made submissions and provided comments about fatigue rules during that process. I certainly know industry associations were very, very motivated to get changes in this space.
“The HVNL review transitioned into the safety and productivity program and in that safety and productivity program the NTC was asked to look at three things in relation to fatigue, simplified work and rest hours, to simplify the general schedule, and enable performance and outcomes based fatigue management options for certified operators, and simple record keeping.
“A lot of work was done under the safety and productivity program, the Minister asked Ken Kanofski to do extra consultation work and that led into some very important discussions between jurisdictions, with industry, and with the NTC about what can be achieved in changes to that general schedule.”
The NTC considered a number of options during that process. One was the provision to provide additional time for drivers to drive in specific circumstances. This would include flexibility providing additional opportunities for drivers to get home and greater flexibility around break times. The NTC examined resetting the 24 hour clock after an eight hour break, reducing administrative offences and simplifying the enforcement regime.
The NTC has settled on a two tier fatigue regime, and within the constraints of that, intending to maintain the standards of the current schedule. The limits on the maximum number of hours that can be worked and the amount of rest drivers need to take will be maintained.