NTC seeks views on fatigue rules in a divided country


MAY 2018


The National Transport Commission (NTC) is weighing up whether to tackle two troublesome fatigue rule issues directly or through a more general Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and Heavy Vehicle (Fatigue Management) Regulation review.


The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) and the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) raised the issues in November, relating to requirements when transitioning either way between two-up and solo driving arrangements and on counting work and rest time spent outside participating jurisdictions.


Now the NTC has issued a HVNL Fatigue Issues Discussion Paper to canvass the views of interested parties.


"Future reform of current HVNL fatigue laws will also be informed by current work being undertaken by the Alertness Cooperative Research Centre (Alertness CRC) as part of the NTC’s heavy vehicle driver fatigue data project," the NTC says.


"The heavy vehicle driver fatigue data project will scientifically evaluate the impact of the HVNL fatigue regulations on road safety risks.


"An initial report to the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials’ Committee is expected in September 2018."



The NTC explains that 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.


A two-up arrangement ceases when the second driver exits the vehicle, and the driver is then considered to be a solo driver.


NatRoad argues that, based on the current law, there is no incentive for drivers to operate two-up, meaning the safety, environmental and productivity gains of doing so are lost.


It wants urgent reform as its members are being fined on the basis of opaque regulations.


Its short-term solution is a nationally agreed policy for regulation of work and rest hours when transitioning, which could be followed by a legislative amendment — a position the NTC backs. 


The NTC says advice from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is that drivers should ensure they comply with the most restrictive requirement until a national arrangement can be implemented.


The issue was raised in New South Wales with Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).


It advised that comparisons between written work diaries of each driver are used to confirm adequate rest breaks have been taken.


"RMS enforcement officers commented this process can be complicated if the drivers are under different work and rest hours options, such as standard and BFM," the NTC says.


The officers note that two-up arrangements are a growing from a low base and appear to be part of a regular, rather than occasional, practice in the industry.



Meanwhile, the industry identified differences in the long-standing normal practice for counting work and rest time in non-participating jurisdictions and the requirements set out under Section 245 of the HVNL.


Presently, drivers travelling into a non-participating jurisdiction and back again in the last seven days must comply with HVNL work and rest hours.


SARTA questions the intention and effect of section 245 of the HVNL in this regard, pointing to long-standing normal practice has been for drivers to comply with the laws of the jurisdiction they are in at the time.


It argues that formerly NHVR-approved Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) and Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) programs included provisions to ensure that at the time of re-entry into the participating jurisdiction they were fully compliant with the HVNL.


But this has been withdrawn, with section 245 incompatibility cited as the reason.


SARTA’s concern is the exposure of drivers, operators and schedulers to severe HVNL sanction, given hours of work rules in the non-participatory jurisdictions of Western Australia and the Northern Territory are much greater and related earlier provision in South Australia "was never enforced because the Western Australian government decided not to enact a parallel enabling provision that would have given effect to the South Australia provision".


It wants the existing HVNL provision either repealed or given wide publicity as the risks were obscure previously.


The NTC reports the national regulator as sticking to the intention of section 245 as being a mechanism to ensure the effects of driving in non-participatory jurisdictions were not visited on those participating.


"The NHVR noted that industry was consulted on the policy intent prior to the provision being created in 2004 and 2006 and anecdotally, industry is aware of and compliant with the provision," the NTC states, adding that it advises industry to conform with HVNL rules when in WA and the NT.


The NTC offers no specific proposal here but seeks submissions on whether the present situation is "appropriate".


"After being in operation for the past five years, we welcome industry feedback on these sections of the HVNL," an NHVR spokesperson says.


"The NHVR notes that these sections of the fatigue laws haven’t changed over the past decade.


"The NTC is responsible for developing, monitoring and maintaining national regulatory and operational reforms relating to road transport and is the correct organisation to conduct this review.


"We look forward to receiving the feedback from the NTC and heavy vehicle industry around these sections of the fatigue laws."


The full paper can be found here and information on making submissions can be found here.

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