ATA backs electronic work diaries

The nation's peak trucking lobby wants voluntary electronic work diaries, but urges governments against linking them to IAP

September 14, 2009

The nation’s peak trucking lobby has backed the introduction of voluntary electronic work diaries for fatigue management but says regulators must not link them to the Intelligent Access Program (IAP).

Responding to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) Electronic systems for heavy vehicle driver fatigue and speed compliance position paper, the Australian Trucking Association says trucking companies should be free to use their existing telematic systems to monitor fatigue management compliance.

If the proposed new diaries are linked to IAP then operators may be forced to replace their current systems because there are only four companies certified to install IAP hardware and software.

The ATA says IAP should only be used to track operators that repeatedly flout road laws.

"..IAP may be a useful tool for courts who [sic] have to deal with very serious repeat offenders, where a high risk of repeat offending and a severe risk potential exists," the ATA submission reads.

The group has also backed the NTC’s preferred option for operators to have a choice between paper and electronic reporting, but the ATA says the new option must not be more onerous than existing standards.

This includes recognising the precision of electronic monitoring to ensure operators and drivers are not penalised for trivial offences.

Prior to the introduction of electronic diaries, the ATA argues that governments should reach an agreement on what constitutes "inconsequential technical breaches".

It says a driver who rests for 14 minutes and 52 seconds, for example, should not be fined for failing to take a15 minute rest as required under fatigue management provisions.

The recommendation echoes a proposal from the Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources (DIER) for national sanctions policy.

The DIER’s manager of vehicle operations, John Bessell, says electronic monitoring is capable of detecting a truck travelling 1km over the speed limit, meaning drivers may be slugged with fines on a regular basis unless minor offences are ignored.

"Low level breaches could come up on a regular basis," he says.

"At what point do you say that it [the incident] constitutes a serious breach?"

The NTC was tasked with looking at electronic work diaries earlier this year and asked to submit a policy proposal to the Australian Transport Council (ATC) based on industry feedback.

While the NTC says electronic monitoring will help cut operators’ administrative burden, moving away from paper-based reporting may be costly.

Under the NTC’s proposal, businesses will need to submit an application to the Fatigue Authorities Panel, which was set up assess advanced fatigue management (AFM) applications.

Operators will also need to pay an "independent technical expert" to assess their applications to the panel.

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