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Fatigue laws must treat truck drivers like humans - not machines

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20 August 2019

Any changes to fatigue management in the national truck laws must treat drivers like humans – not machines, Chair of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Geoff Crouch, said today. 

The Australian Trucking Association and its member associations collectively represent the 50,000 business and 200,000 people in the Australian trucking industry. Together, we are committed to safety, professionalism and viability. 

“The ATA’s submission to the National Transport Commission on fatigue calls for more flexible fatigue management, simplified rules and record-keeping, and a reduction in the penalties for work and rest hour record-keeping offences,” Mr Crouch said. 

“Drivers have told us that the current system does not work. It is complex, confusing and inflexible. 

“Truck drivers are human, not machines and their fatigue should not be treated with a ‘once-size-fits-all’ approach,” he said. 

The ATA’s fatigue management plan would deliver substantial benefits including: 

  • An extra hour for drivers using the ATA’s 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
  • A length incentive for operators that fit wider sleeper cabs, as proposed by QTA CEO Gary Mahon at the 2019 NatRoad conference
  • 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. 

Mr Crouch said the ATA’s approach to fatigue management 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. 

“The ATA’s plan would deliver more flexibility for drivers who just want to get home or to a suitable rest area and ensure they are no longer fined for trivial paperwork errors,” Mr Crouch said. 

“At the same time, our plan would provide regulators and the community with the compliance assurance they need,” he said. 

Mr Crouch said that in developing the submission and recommendations, the ATA worked very closely with its members and Safety Committee. 

“The ATA has six committees, each focused on a key industry issue. Our Safety Committee members were heavily involved in developing this submission, sharing their wealth of knowledge and expertise on the issues that matter most to industry. 

“The submission also drew on the outcomes of the collaboration sessions at our Trucking Australia 2019 conference, where our delegates, including truck drivers, came together to share their insights into what the new fatigue laws should look like,” he said. 

“The ATA submission advances practical solutions to the problems with the current fatigue system, backed by legislative drafting to implement our solutions and an engineering analysis of the wider sleeper cab incentive,” he said.  

The ATA is now working with the National Transport Commission (NTC) and trade media to continue to seek feedback from drivers on the national truck law review. The ATA has expressed great appreciation for the NTC’s flexibility and willingness to accept the important feedback after the submission due dates. 

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Read the submission