RTA offers fatigue help as industry complaints rise

RTA plans another help kit on fatigue management following complaints from the trucking industry

By Brad Gardner | October 29, 2009

New South Wales is poised to release another help kit on fatigue management following concerns from the industry over the running of the scheme.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) has been hit with complaints from drivers and trucking operators confused with the process used for counting work and rest hours.

Many are inadvertently committing breaches by misinterpreting their obligations, leading a spokesperson for the RTA to say guidelines will be issued next month to clarify the industry’s responsibilities.

"It is anticipated that the guidance material, which will include practical examples of counting work and rest time using work diary pages, will be published in November," the spokesperson says.

"In particular, the guidance material will explain the meaning of the term ‘relevant major rest break’."

In NSW a relevant major rest break is five hours and is the point from which officers begin counting when determining if a driver has exceeded their work time.

The definition has caused problems, with documents obtained by ATN showing a company driver unwittingly breached his 12-hour workday.

The driver had a "relevant major rest break" between 12.30pm and 6pm on September 17 and then had a continuous break from 12am to 7am on September 18.

Because of this 7-hour rest he thought his work time had reset and "he was right to go" and worked from 7am to 5pm, taking staggered breaks.

But regulations stipulate that officers must count forward from the preceding 24 hours, meaning the break taken at 6pm on September 17 was used as a start point when the RTA checked the driver’s work diary at 6pm on September 18.

As such, the driver was booked for working 13.25 hours in a 24-hour period.

But emails obtained by ATN show enforcement officers are also struggling to understand fatigue management.

In responding to claims the driver should not have received an infringement, Robert Oliver from the RTA’s Compliance and Freight Strategy Branch points out the inspector failed to detect the driver did not take a required rest before September 17.

Although the guidelines are planned to help the industry better understand its obligations, ATN understands the RTA is not going to amend any work or rest hour provisions.

"The guidance material will complement other RTA initiatives to ensure the fair and consistent application of national driver fatigue laws in NSW," the RTA spokesperson says.

"These initiatives include allowing RTA inspectors to provide warnings for minor offences rather than impose fines."

Former Minister for Roads Michael Daley earlier this year announced changes to infringement notices by removing fines for minor administrative mistakes such as spelling errors.

The RTA last month released a step-by-step guide to help operators and drivers gain basic fatigue management (BFM) accreditation.

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