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BFM gives drivers defence

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LATELY a few commentators in the industry seem to be criticising the concept of Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) or as they call it, 14 hours.

BFM was one of the three options introduced in 2008 along with Standard (Std) Hours and Advanced Fatigue Management under the new fatigue laws and took the place of the former Transitional Fatigue Management Scheme (TFMS) that was introduced in the mid 1990's. Like the former TFMS scheme, operators must be accredited and now meet a set of six standards for systems of management for drivers and fatigue including providing their drivers with fatigue specific training and medical checks.

This is in contrast to the Std Hours scheme that allows anybody off the street to operate in the transport industry as either an operator or driver without any formal training or accreditation on the issue of fatigue and safety. Yes there are laws and standards such as COR and WH&S that does, but unfortunately in many cases these laws and standards are passive and will not be applied until something goes tragically wrong. A driver cannot operate under the BFM scheme unless their employer is an accredited operator or in the case of an owner driver they must implement the same standards to gain accreditation as well as undertake the training and medical checks of an employed driver.

Drivers who change employers must be re-accredited by their new employer to operate under their BFM system. Until such time as a BFM trained driver is accredited by their new employer they revert back to Std Hours scheme.

While there are many smaller differences between the Std and BFM schemes, the three larger ones are the ability to work a six hour period before needing a rest break, the ability to work 14 hours in a 24 hour period and the counting of night and long hours worked.I have covered night and long hours in a previous article and unless you are working the period between midnight and 6am daily it doesn't affect most people. The ability to work 14 hours in a 24 period is the one part of the BFM scheme that is gaining the most negative attention, but why when it is the one aspect of BFM that is of most benefit to long distance drivers.

How can it be a benefit, well the most important thing the ability to work 14 hours in a 24 hour period does is that it can get you the driver home sooner and this is the fact that many mustn't understand.

How many times at the 12th hour have you as a driver run out of work time within a couple of hours of home? This fact alone is most important to a very large section of the industry who travel long distances with their tasks and journeys changing continuously unlike drivers who perform shuttle runs or operate between depots within 12 hours of each other who do not need this added flexibility.

Operating under the BFM scheme may allow many operators and drivers to legally do what they are doing now illegally and thereby can remove the risks and stress associated with operating in such a manner.

For some people this may sound like a strange concept, but every step that the management of a business can take in improving their systems to operate within the envelope of both the law and improved safety is definitely a step forward in the right direction.

Contrary to some that wish you to believe, there is nowhere in the BFM scheme that says you must work 14 hours every day just as there is nowhere in the fatigue laws that dictates that you must work when tired.

Much of this talk comes from a misunderstanding of the fatigue laws and an unwillingness to accept change from entrenched habits and methods.

Consider that in a 24 hour period if you remove the seven hour rest break there is still a further five hours of rest that a driver must undertake under the Std Hours scheme as opposed to the three hours required under BFM.

What does a driver do for those extra two hours of rest if they don't need it? Sit in roadhouses and whinge about those operating under the 14 hour scheme, maybe that's where a lot of this talk belongs.

Topics:  chris blanchard in the know

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