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ARMED with some of the questions that have been troubling Australian truckies, I headed off to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to get you some answers.
I met with Geoff Casey, the productivity and safety executive director, who sat down with me, happy to try and give you the answers you need. QUESTION: Truckies don’t seem to be very happy with the electronic work diaries, why have we brought them to Australia when they didn’t seem to work in the US? ■ ANSWER: I don’t know if the truck drivers as such are unhappy with them.
(They have the) electronic logging device, which is similar but not exactly the same as ours.
We understand some of the operators, because it’s mandatory in the US, therefore (feel) it’s being imposed upon them and costs associated with it are being imposed upon them, some of the operators have opposed it a little bit.
It’s fairly early days over there, it only came in in December, it’s a little hard to tell what the reaction is at this stage.
I guess the significant difference is we understand those that do have it, the majority of them, almost 90-something per cent, wouldn’t actually go back now that they’ve got it from a driver’s perspective, how it contributes to their day-to-day work and I think the biggest difference is that ours is voluntary anyway so the system we’re bringing in, if people choose not to take it there’s no obligation to do so. Q: Can we talk about the system with fatigue laws, when truckies feel they’re OK to drive but books tell them they can’t drive any longer, how do we deal with that? ■ A: Fatigue and fatigue laws are complex issues, not only in our industry but in any industry – aviation, maritime, rail, they all struggle with laws that adequately apply to an individual because fatigue is subjective.
What makes you tired might not make me tired.
There’s an expectation,
however, from the general community that we put some parameters around that so we have laws.
Those laws will never adequately manage fatigue.
Fatigue has to be managed by the driver, the operator, the various people that have an impact on the driver or operator.
I understand the angst associated with it. It is difficult to draft a law that applies equally to everyone when people behave differently.
It is a complex issue, so each time we renew the laws we try to take into account some of those considerations, learn from other industries, learn from the industry itself is the best way to do that. Q: Truckies I’ve been speaking to think there’s this push for all the fatigue laws but not enough safe rest stops. So they’ve been told they need to take their break but there’s nowhere safe to take their breaks. ■ A: We hear a bit of that too and I don’t disagree.
(I’m) not wishing to say that it’s not our responsibility but rest stops are a state matter, so each of the states are different.
That being said, we are doing our best through various forums to influence building new rest stops. There are a number of initiatives on the way in terms of being able to identify where a rest stop is available for a driver, whether those rest stops are full.
We’ve also been engaged in some work with various states and jurisdictions around encouraging people like recreational caravanners, who tend to use the truck stops so the trucks can’t stop there.
So we’re working around the periphery of it and trying to help the drivers but we can’t actually put truck stops in – as I said that’s a state issue, unfortunately. But there are some good initiatives coming up soon. Q: Can you explain how the laws are made and whether those people who are making the decisions have experience as truck drivers? ■ A: Fundamentally what happens is we have an organisation – the National Transport Commission, the NTC – who are responsible for drafting and consulting heavy vehicle laws.
We obviously have a significant input to that so the process – whether it’s fatigue laws or other laws – is to identify a need to change a law or draft a law.
Does the NTC specifically have truck drivers? No.
We have some employees here who are and have been truck drivers.
We engage with the industry probably a little more than the NTC does but because of our involvement in it, we will try and direct whether those laws are constructive and we’ve recognised already the laws that need a review and we’re in that process with the NTC now.
The other issue is that in drafting any laws there’s a requirement that the NTC and us for that matter have to engage in an extensive consultation process.
So that’s where I would encourage anyone in the industry, be they a driver or an operator, to participate in that consultation process.
One of the problems we have is that we hear back from people who didn’t like a law but they didn’t participate and say what they thought it should be.
So please, when that process comes about I would encourage everyone to participate in that. So that way, any driver should be able to have their say.
❝ One of the problems we have is that we hear back from people who didn’t like a law but they didn’t participate and say what they thought it should be.
— Geoff Casey
THEIR SAY: The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator answers some of your questions.
NHVR productivity and safety executive director Geoff Casey.
Find out NHVR’s stance on rest areas.