Pressure mounts in NSW for fatigue law change

By: Graham Gardiner


The New South Wales Opposition is threatening to abolish fatigue management regulations unless the State Government amends controversial requirements to

The New South Wales Opposition is threatening to abolish fatigue management regulations unless the State Government amends controversial requirements to ease the burden on operators.

Opposition spokesman on roads Duncan Gay has blasted the Government for introducing the laws, claiming the industry was not adequately consulted and many aspects of the new laws are unworkable.

The Opposition last month moved a disallowance motion on the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue and Speeding Compliance) Regulation but decided to halt its plans after Minister for Roads Michael Daley caved into pressure and announced a roundtable discussion to listen to the industry’s concerns.

However, Gay has warned the Government against using this to stall action, saying he will try to block the regulations if no progress is made.

"The motion is still there, hanging like the sword of Damocles. It is a blunt instrument and it is not one we want to use," Gay says.

"But if no progress is made, I will reluctantly use it."

Gay wants Daley to scrap the provision that docks demerit points for work-diary offences, saying the industry should only be slugged with financial penalties.

The Opposition also wants more action on rest areas or a longer transition period to give the Government time to build more facilities.

"You can’t bring in draconian rules without giving people the ability to abide by them," Gay says.

The Opposition is also pushing for night driving restrictions to be overhauled because of their lack of flexibility for regional and livestock operators.

Gay says the industry is confused by the new laws because cross-border inconsistencies and last-minute changes made by the Government meant there was little time for operators to familiarise themselves with them.

’NO FURTHER CHANGES’
But while the Minister has agreed to the meeting, Daley says he is only prepared to consult on existing changes to the laws rather than making further amendments.

The first meeting will be held on November 26 and Gay says he will wait for the outcome of discussions before deciding whether to follow through on the threat to abolish the laws.

"We can’t solve everything in one go but it is hopeful we can make a big start," he says.

"No-one wants the laws to go; we just want the rough edges taken out of them."

Gay has deferred his motion of disallowance against the regulations for a week after the first meeting.

He says he will continue to adjourn the motion so long as the Government listens to the industry’s concerns and acts accordingly.

Because the Government passed fatigue management as a regulation, the Opposition has the power to abolish it if it gains a majority vote in the Legislative Council.

NatRoad has already submitted a briefing paper to the Government outlining the industry’s concerns.

The briefing paper criticises the lack of uniformity, saying cross-border inconsistencies have created "added complexities and a decrease in productivity".

NatRoad has listed rest areas as the most important issue for helping drivers comply with fatigue management.

It also wants uniform Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) regulations, which differ in Victoria to other states.

The briefing paper also criticises the work-diary exemptions because drivers are given a 100km operating radius from their base while primary producers have been granted 160km.

Although Daley decided to grant the exemption on the eve of the new regulations to reduce the reporting burden on the industry, drivers still need to record personal and vehicle details, work and rest times, vehicle destination and pay records even if they travel as few as 50 metres from their base.

Furthermore, these records must be kept for at least three years, they need to be accessible by enforcement officers and capable of being used as evidence if necessary.

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