FAIR LAWS, OR NOT: A log truck parked up at a rest area near Deloraine in Tasmania.
FAIR LAWS, OR NOT: A log truck parked up at a rest area near Deloraine in Tasmania. SPY

Please hear the plea for fatigue law fix

THE National Road Freighters Association has called for an urgent overhaul of the current fatigue management laws.

Ken Wilkie, immediate past vice-president of the grass roots lobby group, said they needed to be more flexible and be more sympathetic toward a driver's natural nocturnal sleeping rhythms.

In a comprehensive statement - see page 39 of this issue for the association's entire position paper - the NRFA advocates for the adoption of the WA model which allows for more driver autonomy around a 14-hour working day.

"Yes, it's illegal to drive fatigued irrespective of your hours and that's all well and good,” said Mr Wilkie, one of the longest-serving drivers in the game.

"But what happens if a person is committed to an organisation to run a truck between say Brisbane and Sydney and getting out of Brisbane in the early evening to be there the next morning and suddenly he finds he's having trouble staying awake?

"But the way the regulations are set up, if he pulls up and has an hour or two away from the wheel to make himself legal, then he loses a leg because of this having to have seven consecutive hours off.

"To my mind that's absolutely ludicrous that we don't have as much flexibility that we need.”

Ken concedes that no regulation can guarantee a driver won't have a fatigue-related issue while on the job.

But the NRFA believes there are some simple steps to eradicating the current issues faced by the industry.

"The first thing we need to do - and I think it should be across the board for everyone going for a licence, irrespective of what size vehicle - is that there needs to be education on the circadian rhythm (the natural cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise and eat),” he said.

Ken said the NRFA's suggested fatigue changes would also help drivers with young families, who were often kept apart by the current requirements to rest.

Currently operators who have done short hauls earlier in the week, and then do a longer run later in the work cycle are being forced to stand down for 24 hours, away from home and family.

"We're determined to get this into the public agenda and continue to work for some integrity in the way breaches are handled,” he said.

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