WHEN THE current Fatigue Laws were introduced in 2008, one of the most anticipated components was having periods of rest of 15 minutes recognised as a rest break. Under the previous laws, periods less than 30 minutes were not recognised for counting purposes.
But has the inclusion of smaller rest breaks really been of benefit to the industry or has it backfired and created more heartache than the original aim of increased flexibility was to bring?
How many of you reading this - or drivers you know - have received infringements or warnings since 2008 for exceeding total 'work' hours, or have missed the point at which you are required to take a rest break by 15 minutes?
In earlier articles on fatigue laws, I said to avoid 15 minute periods and gave examples, only showing a change of activity on the hour or half hour marks. Why? Well apart from the reason that I am a staunch advocate of applying the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method to everything I do, experience has shown me, from checking drivers' records, that the more you complicate the entries in your work diary, the more you increase your chances of miscalculating and ending up with an unwanted infringement.
In fact, sadly, some drivers go out of their way to use the 15-minute periods in the mistaken hope of confusing enforcement officers with work diary pages that have more up and down lines than an oscilloscope, only to have it backfire on them when they make a miscalculation and end up with an infringement notice.
It is easier, less confusing and less stressful to work with half hours and full hours than it is with quarter hours and three-quarter hours thrown into the calculation mix.
But with the way the fatigue laws are written for the rounding of work and rest time (covered in a previous article) what can you do to apply KISS without losing too much work time to rounding? While I can never recommend that anyone do anything to break the law as written, the best I can do is advise that as a driver you "plan and show your rest breaks to coincide with hour and half hour marks in your work diary".
That doesn't mean you can't use 15-minute periods in your work diary, but for the purpose of KISS and your own sanity, use them as an exception and not as something you use every day of the week. If you do have to show a change of activity that coincides with the quarter or three-quarter hour mark, I advise it is simpler to keep your rest and work periods to multiples of half hours for counting purposes. For example, if you have to show a rest break starting at 1.15pm, don't recommence work until 1.45pm, if possible.
Many roadside enforcement officers I've talked to will confirm this and agree it is drivers that use "work" and "rest" periods of 15 or 45 minutes who are the most prone to making mistakes in calculating work diaries.
Many enforcement officers echo that sentiment, recommending drivers who have problems should avoid using the shorter periods.
Short rest periods can be beneficial, but in most cases for long distance drivers, is 15 minutes enough to achieve any sort of meaningful rest and recharge the system? Not really. It's enough to time to grab a cuppa or go to the loo, but that's about it.
So 15-minute rest periods have proved to be a double- edged sword: it can cut both ways if you are not careful.
Remember to KISS your work diary every day.
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