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Fatigue needs examination

TIME TO REST: Truckies pull over for a rest at a truck stop in the outback.Photo: File
TIME TO REST: Truckies pull over for a rest at a truck stop in the outback.Photo: File

BIG RIGS readers may remember last year I wrote a three piece series commenting on the NTC Electronic systems for heavy vehicle driver fatigue and speed compliance policy draft policy paper assessing both the good and bad that was contained within the document.

In March 2010 the NSW State Government instigated an operational pilot of Electronic Work Diaries (EWD) to be administered by the NSW RTA (now RMS) with the trial to start in the second half of 2011 stage one has now been completed and stage two encompassing refinement of processes and procedures currently underway.

My main concerns with the NTC draft paper was that the document was written around utilising dated technology currently linked to the problematic Intelligent Access Program (IAP) which I have since had service providers of electronic systems express that they share the same opinion as me in that they can now provide systems far in advance of the IAP systems the draft policy is written around.

I was also concerned that the document did not look to take advantage of the use of electronic systems and was open to retaining practices established around the use of written work diaries that date as far back to the original introduction of log books, in particular the counting of time.

Contrary to what was stated in a recent letter to the editor, I have never stated that time should be counted to the minute in the current paper work diary, many people struggle with use of 15 minute periods let alone attempting to add up minutes manually.

What I did state is that if EWDs are to be introduced then the rules for an EWD should be moved away from the current system of rounding and should utilise new technology to record time in minute periods so drivers are not unfairly penalised losing work time from the day.

In 2007 on a trip to Sweden this was confirmed by drivers that we spoke to using electronic systems, stating that with the use of rounding for periods of time they were losing up to two hours of productive work time every day.

What is very worrying is that the whole process appears to be being fast tracked without real transparency or consultation on issues arising or the concerns of the larger industry in particular drivers being addressed.

Rod Hannifey fought to gain a position on the committee overseeing the trial of the EWDs and the feedback from Rod has not been good, especially in relation to getting the other parties concerned on the committee to address or even consider the concerns of drivers as raised by Rod.

The RMS has published two case studies of Boral and McColl Transport that are on the RMS EWD web site.

These two case studies appear to be written by the RMS propaganda department as a glowing report card with not one mention of problems or issues that need to be addressed from a trial of a completely new system.

One statement by Boral confirms my suspicion that the draft paper was written around outdated IAP technology; "Increased functionality of a five year old existing system".

What also is not considered is that both of the case studies have been undertaken by larger companies that have more resources at hand and from what I can tell, on work whose routine does not vary much on a daily basis.

This is in contrast to much of the industry that have only very limited resources and undertake different and challenging tasks every single day with the need for flexibility that in reality is often outside of what the current rules allow for.

A letter that Rod forwarded to me (and submitted to the EWD committee) from a subcontractor formally working for one of the companies involved in the trials best sums up the concerns with the current process and lack of genuine consultation:

"The enforcement of the system has not only created unrealistic time limitations and encouraged reckless driving habits, but has put an unmeasurable amount of pressure on us as the vechicle owner/operater and therefore reflecting on our family life."

Where was that in the case studies?

Topics:  chris blanchard, in the know


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