DRIVING CHANGE: NHVR fatigue specialist Andreas Blahous discusses flexibility for work and rest hours with delegates at the Brisbane Truck Show.
DRIVING CHANGE: NHVR fatigue specialist Andreas Blahous discusses flexibility for work and rest hours with delegates at the Brisbane Truck Show. Mark Duffus

Fatigue law hot topic at BTS

FLEXIBILITY around fatigue laws was one of the most common topics raised with me during the recent Brisbane Truck Show.

Those visiting the NHVR stand were keen to talk about a range of subjects, with access permits, innovations in PBS and future fatigue laws being the hot topics.

Discussions about fatigue and the growing role of technology were timely given the current review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

Operators are continually looking for opportunities to use technology to get more flexibility to meet the growing number of different freight tasks.

During the NatRoad Conference, the day before the show I had the opportunity to discuss future changes to the HVNL with QTA CEO Gary Mahon and the appointed head of the review's expert panel, Peter Harris.

Again discussions around fatigue laws were front and centre.

Last week the National Transport Commission released its Effective Fatigue Management issues paper - the second of eight papers calling for feedback on the HVNL Review.

While the HVNL Review is broad, I left the truck show convinced that some of the most important reforms will be around work and rest hours and the ability for operators to use them flexibly.

Technology is changing the heavy vehicle industry and may be part of the solution.

Many safety features are now available on newer vehicles - such as stability control, fatigue monitoring and lane departure warnings. These emerging technologies present opportunities to seek productivity gains, in a safe way.

We also recognise that fatigue is different from individual to individual, and we need legislation that reflects this, enables change and still remains fit for purpose into the future.

Among the ideas being put forward are allowing flexibility to plan different rest breaks across the work period to overcome constraints like a lack of rest areas on a particular route, flexibility to extend work limits so that drivers can get home when they encounter unexpected operational issues or delays, and, finally, flexibility to give drivers a greater say in managing their work and rest so they don't have to waste time waiting for arbitrary limits before recommencing work.

The last suggestion is seen as a possible way to reduce stress on drivers.

During a week in April, the NHVR and our partner transport, police and workplace, health and safety agencies across the country inspected more than 3300 work diaries. Compliance rates remained at 93per cent, similar to previous major compliance activities.

However, it was evident that compliance increased to 96per cent for those operating under Basic Fatigue Management, while there was 100per cent compliance for drivers who were operating under Advanced Fatigue Management.

The introduction of the Heavy Vehicle National Law in 2013 was a step towards aligning safety and productivity for the benefit of our whole industry.

As we move forward through the review of the legislation, we have the potential to deliver even greater benefits.

Submissions to the NTC close on August 16, 2019, so now is the opportunity to have your say, either directly to the NTC or through your association or the expert panel.

Check out the Effective Fatigue Management paper at www.ntc.gov.au.

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