Electronic monitoring future
Regulatory bodies are nudging towards the adoption of electronic work diaries but there is much to be considered before the implementation commences
Regulatory bodies are nudging towards the adoption of electronic work diaries
T he subject of electronic work diaries (EWDs) has been around for many years but Australia is yet to make a formal entry into this technologydriven system of driver monitoring and record-keeping. While it is still a voluntary alternative to written work diaries ( WWD) that are currently used to meet fatigue management obligations, industry outlook indicates the system is poised for greater adoption across fleets of various sizes.
Regulatory authorities believe that the system is better equipped to manage fatigue obligations by accurately recording a driver’s work. Fleet operators and managers will have access to this data in real time, adding a level of transparency that is particularly desirable for larger fleets and long-haul operators.
For smaller fleets, one of the key benefits of the system is the elimination of paper records, which can save both time and resources. It can also reduce the amount of time drivers spend on maintaining their paper-based logbooks.
The National Transport Commission (NTC) has been working on projects related to developing the policy and legislative framework for EWD. However, the implementation of the system will be the lead responsibility of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).
The NTC states that the EWD system has the “potential to significantly improve fatigue management”. Its June 2014 report, Electronic
Work Diaries: Final policy paper, notes: “The EWD can assist drivers to comply with the law and contribute to a systems-based approach to managing drivers’ performance in the context of chain of responsibility. These benefits are underpinned by higher visibility of work and rest hours, improved accuracy and accessibility and improved self-compliance. Enforcement can also be improved – the accuracy and higher probability of detection enables regulators and enforcement agencies to intelligently assess risk and identify high noncompliance.”
The NTC is currently providing advice to the NHVR and Transport Certification Australia ( TCA) to advance implementation across the industry.
So far, mainly larger or long-haul fleets have acknowledged the benefits of EWD but the system is expected to gain approval of medium to relatively smaller fleets in the near future. According to a Teletrac Navman survey conducted late last year, currently one in 10 road transport businesses use EWDs, mainly those running larger fleets.
However, roughly a quarter of road transport fleets, including a third of those with six or more trucks, plan to introduce EWD within the year, with many fleets able to activate functionality within existing telematics systems.
The fi ndings of the report, which was produced by ACA Research, outline some of the key benefits of the EWD system, including monitoring driver performance, compliance, and eliminating the need to maintain paper records.
While up to 86 per cent of larger fleet – such as those with 25 trucks or more – agree that EWD benefits their business, even 55 per cent of smaller operators – such as those with one or two trucks – saw benefits of the system to their operations.
“So far, mainly larger or long-haul eets have acknowledged the bene ts of EWD but the system is expected to gain approval of medium to relatively smaller eets in the near future”
The EWD implementation is set to follow a legislative amendment process. There are many factors of consideration before the Heavy Vehicle
National Law (HVNL) is amended, including compliance and enforcement principles, scope of regulation and investigation, minimum standards of telematics, treatment of small breaches, and privacy and surveillance rules. The latter two have been given considerable thought by the NTC and other stakeholders thus far.
Treatment of small breaches
Although the increased accuracy and transparency of the EWD system has its benefits, it has a few complications as well. With increased visibility it is more likely that small breaches can be easily detected.
The NTC states the accuracy and transparency of the EWD system challenges the traditional enforcement perspectives. Its policy report notes that many stakeholders agree that accredited operators or those operating within a safety management system must be allowed to handle cases of small work diary breaches instead of enforcement agencies.
“We want authorities to target those people who systematically flaunt the laws that are meant to keep all road users safe,” NTC chief executive Paul Retter states.
“Were enforcement agencies to target small breaches, they would likely confl ict with their own internal policies regarding appropriate and proportionate enforcement action and, if enforced, would likely be considered trivial by the courts.
“The key policy questions relate to achieving equity between EWD and WWD drivers, agreement on the acceptable limit of a small breach before enforcement action should be taken, and the form in which the policy position is conveyed to industry, for example, in national guidelines or legislation.”
During its EWD Operational Pilot, the NTC sought advice from four fatigue and road safety experts including Professor Drew Dawson, Dr Mark Howard, Professor Narelle Haworth and Professor Ann Williamson on the fatigue impact of the recommended approach and the margin of time breach. Dawson, Howard and Haworth assessed the fatigue risk of a non-accumulative breach of up to eight minutes is likely to be negligible. However, Williamson suggested that, based on the existing knowledge about fatigue and performance, longer work periods and work that extends through the night period will result in greater fatigue.
While she acknowledged the potential benefit of allowing up to eight minutes for those drivers who would otherwise not apply the rounding rules correctly using a WWD, Williamson advised against extending any limits to basic fatigue management (BFM) and advanced fatigue management (AFM).
Williamson has previously stated that the implementation of an electronic logbook system will not be much different to the WWD process. She says that EWDs cannot alone ensure safety and compliance and there is a need to tackle the commercial pressures in the industry to reduce the stress drivers already experience.
Privacy and surveillance
With the transparency offered by the system, all parties that handle personal information contained in an EWD have added responsibility to manage the information of drivers within the parameters of the privacy and surveillance laws. These incorporate regular monitors including fleet managers, record-keepers and service providers and occasional managers such as the NHVR and police.
Additionally, under the surveillance laws, it is important that the driver has informed knowledge of the surveillance.
The NTC suggests all parties to “assess, design and manage their privacy responsibilities legally and effectively. Complying with privacy laws will not only minimise noncompliance but increase industry confidence in the EWD – a critical feature in a voluntary environment.”
It also recommends the EWD system and its associated institutional environment to “adopt a privacy-by- design approach to ensure the EWD system can co- exist with other regulatory and/ or commercial telematics systems and only uses personal information necessary to undertake the EWD task and to keep the data anonymous were possible”.
Last month, a number of truck drivers across the United States protested against the scheduled mandate that will make electronic logging devices (ELD) compulsory for road freight carriers.
A report published by the American Broadcasting Company-affi liated WHSV TV station, ‘ Truck drivers protest electronic logging devices’, noted that the main issue for drivers was ELD- enforced hours of service.
The system is designed to allow drivers 14 hours of work per day followed by 10 consecutive hours off duty.
However, the software requires continuous logging, so if a driver takes a break between the work period, they will have to make up for the lost time during that 14-hour block.
The American driving community argues that the ELD system forces drivers to take a break based on the rule book and not their body clock.
With the US mandate due to come into effect on December 18, many drivers in Washington, D.C., Columbus, and Minneapolis were reported to have stopped their trucks on the sides of roads as a sign of protest. They said the ELD guidelines related to work and break time will make deliveries more challenging.
Developed by the US’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the rule mandates all fleets to implement certified electronic logging device (ELD) systems to record a driver’s hours of service.
Fleets already equipped with any form of electronic logging technology have until December 2019 to ensure compliance with the ELD specifications.
This is one of the key differences in the North American and Australian systems.
The NTC states that the Australian EWD system will not be compulsory: “While all fatigue-regulated drivers must record their work and rest hours, drivers and operators can choose to record these hours with either paper work diaries or EWDs.
“The NTC and other agencies hope that the benefits of EWD will encourage rather than force heavy vehicle operators and drivers to switch from paper work diaries.”
Detailed plans for implementing the system are being developed by the national regulator in association with the NTC and TCA.
The NHVR is due to publish the EWD standards towards the end of the year. Once these plans are complete, technology providers and transport operators interested in implementing an EWD system can contact NHVR to have their product assessed for approval.
“Under the surveillance laws, it is important that the driver has informed knowledge of the surveillance”
Above: Paul Retter says the EWD system will make compliance easier Opposite: Prof Ann Williamson is not convinced that EWD system will have the positive effect that regulators talk about
Top left: Electronic work diaries are expected to make logbook entries faster and more accurate. Pictured is a North American version