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Dealing with seven-hour confusion

THE Letter To The Editor by Bill Polglase in the last issue of Big Rigs highlights one of the biggest misconceptions by some members of the different enforcement authorities of the intent and implementation of the National Fatigue Laws since they were introduced in 2008.

Somewhere in the training provided to enforcement agencies - and in particular, it seems to be police officers of various jurisdictions - the concept of what constitutes a 24-hour period as per the legislation has been lost in translation.

Put simply, a calendar day of midnight to midnight does not at any time constitute a 24-hour period, except in the case of a driver commencing work after a major rest break at the stroke of midnight. A 24-hour period as stated in the legislation, which is the law, must be measured only from the end of any major rest break of five hours or more, counting forwards.

It is a false concept held by some enforcement officers that a seven-hour major rest break must be shown in its entirety on a single page of a work diary and does not count if it transverses from one calendar day to the next.

The "new" system of counting as stated in Bill's letter has had no influence on how calculation is to be done to determine when a major rest break is due.

This has not changed since the new fatigue laws were introduced in 2008 and the same basic concept also applied under the old laws for the six-hour rest break, so it really isn't anything new.

Based on the information provided in Bill's letter without the opportunity to review his actual work diary pages, he has every reason to feel cheated by an officer who obviously does not properly understand the fatigue laws.

If Bill commenced work no earlier than 6am on the 20th, undertaking his seven-hour rest break between the hours of 11pm and 6am, he would not be due for another major rest break to commence no later than 11pm on the 21st provided he has also complied with all other requirements of the fatigue tables.

Based on the officer's ill-informed logic, I would assume Bill has been issued with an infringement for a substantial risk breach, which shouldn't incur a loss of demerit points, but, based on the latest NSW list of fines, constitutes a fine of about $496 hard-earned dollars. I hope Bill does follow this injustice through, because while now it may seem insignificant in the larger scheme of things, the removal of this unwarranted blemish on his driving record may prove invaluable in the future.

Peter Schuback is right in that drivers and operators do need to stand up for themselves when an injustice is served to them, and highlights the fault in the system that directs that drivers and operators must attend and defend themselves in an expensive court process when they have been incorrectly issued with an infringement notice.

This is not only expensive but clogs up the court system with what many magistrates would see as trivial matters, matters that could effectively be handled by an industry-specific formal process before proceeding to the courts.

To clarify something from the article associated with Peter's letter, it is a requirement of the fatigue laws for a driver to carry and/or fill a Work Diary if the GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of the vehicle is greater than 12 tonnes as per that vehicle's compliance plate. This requirement is not based on the actual weight of the vehicle and is something drivers should be mindful of.

Thank you to Kym Steel for pointing out that I had used the wrong term in my last article. Yes, drivers must be "inducted" into a new employer's BFM accreditation scheme before they can operate under their new employer's BFM scheme and, as Kym pointed out, provided they can produce their training certificate - so don't throw it away!

Big Rigs

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