NRFA wants Queensland to adopt WA fatigue scheme

Group representing small contractors wants Western Australia’s fatigue management scheme introduced in Queensland

By Brad Gardner | August 13, 2012

A group representing small operators wants the Queensland Government to adopt Western Australia’s fatigue management scheme when national heavy vehicle regulations begin.

The National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) has written to the Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee asking it to support the shift, which would give drivers more flexibility over how they manage their work and rest hours.

The committee was given the task of scrutinising the Heavy Vehicle National Law Bill, which will establish the National Heavy Regulator (NHVR), and is due to report its findings to Queensland Parliament today.

"Our organisation would like to see Queensland adopt the same system as WA, as we feel this system is more appropriate," NRFA delegate Ken Wilkie says in a submission to the committee.

The veteran owner-driver supports the WA model of allowing drivers to work to a 14-day cycle that includes at least two periods of 24 continuous hours of rest. Drivers in WA can work up to 168 hours in the 14-day period.

"This allows flexibility for long haul drivers to balance family responsibilities with contractual obligations for performance. An example would be produce transport from North Queensland to southern states and return," Wilkie’s submission reads.

WA also permits drivers to work to a 28-day schedule, which allows 24 days of continuous work. A driver who does this must then stop work for at least four days straight. Drivers can also vary their work hours each day to give them greater flexibility.

A 20 minute break must be taken after five hours of driving time, but it can include non-driving activities which form part of work time.

"The WA scheme is more flexible regarding time worked during a shift. Rather than demanding drivers rest after five hours of driving, the WA scheme expects drivers to "change" their activities after five hours of driving. It is sufficient to stop the vehicle and complete other work tasks," Wilkie writes.

The WA regulations also allow drivers to exceed their work hours to make it to a roadhouse where they can rest comfortably, as opposed to immediately stopping as soon as they reach their legally allowed hours.

"Similarly if a driver was transporting a load of stock to a saleyard and unexpected delays meant a judgement had to be made about continuing to the destination or stopping, it may well be reasonable and practicable to continue," the document outlining WA’s fatigue scheme says.

"The need to build in an allowance in schedules for unexpected contingencies is an important part of establishing work schedules."

The Western Australian Government says its fatigue scheme is designed to recognise the state’s geography and the long distances truck drivers must travel.

Queensland limits driving time to 12 hours in a 24-hour period for drivers who are not working under basic fatigue management (BFM) or advanced fatigue management (AFM) modules.

Queensland MP Howard Hobbs earlier this month called for the state to examine the worth of WA’s scheme.

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