Help arrives for operators confused by fatigue

RTA releases another set of guidelines to help end operator confusion on fatigue management

By Brad Gardner | November 13, 2009

Operators struggling to understand fatigue management will now have access to guidelines clarifying their responsibilities.

The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) has released a guide outlining how work and rest time hours are counted and what drivers need to do to comply.

As reported by ATN, the RTA had been hit with complaints from drivers and trucking operators confused with the process used for counting work and rest hours.

"The fact sheet was developed in response to concerns expressed by industry that drivers may be inadvertently breaching work and rest time limits due to misunderstandings about the rules for counting work and rest time," a letter to the Transport Operations Liason Group says.

The guide sets out how work and rest hours are counted for those working periods of less than 24 hours and those who are working 24-hour periods.

"Periods of less than 24 hours should be counted forward from the end of any period of rest time," the letter says.

Periods of 24 hours or longer are counted forward from the end of a 'relevant major rest break', which depends on the fatigue module.

Standard hours, for instance, requires drivers to have a continuous rest break of seven hours in every 24-hour period.

Drivers under basic fatigue management (BFM) have the option of taking a six-hour continuous break if they split their rest periods.

If drivers do not take their required 'relevant major rest break' then enforcement officers may count from the last 'major rest break', which is defined as five hours.

The guide also provides practical examples using work diary pages.

The work and rest requirements have caused problems, with documents obtained by ATN showing a company driver unwittingly breached his 12-hour workday.

The driver had a '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.

However, 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 because they must count forward from the preceding 24 hours.

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

The Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association (LBCA) and NatRoad pushed hard for guidelines to help reduce confusion in the industry.

LBCA Executive Director Andrew Higginson says the guide clarifies the methods used to count work and rest hours and does so in a language easy to understand.

"They get 10 out of 10 from the LBCA from the way they’ve gone about it," Higginson says of the RTA.

NatRoad Chief Executive Bernie Belacic also congratulated the RTA and says other jurisdictions should follow its lead.

"There should be a national document to say this is how to count [work] time," Belacic says.

The latest guidelines follow the release of a step-by-step guide to help operators and drivers gain basic fatigue management (BFM) accreditation.

Higginson says the help kits show the RTA is keen to work harder with the industry at resolving problems.

"All the signs are fantastic," he says.

RTA General Manager of Compliance and Freight Strategy Philip Halton says tboth associations played a key role in the development of the fact sheets.

"These guys have been extremely helpful and constructive," he says.

Click here to download the work and rest hour guidelines.

Click here to download the guide to gaining BFM accreditation.

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