Industry seeks changes to proposed new work diary

Industry unhappy with new work diary provisions that leave fatigue open to interpretation

Industry seeks changes to proposed new work diary
Industry seeks changes to proposed new work diary
By Brad Gardner | May 14, 2013

The trucking industry has raised concerns about a clause in the proposed new work diary giving enforcement officers the power to determine if a driver is fatigued.

Some of the feedback to the National Transport Commission (NTC) on the new diary has questioned why medically unqualified officers should be allowed to make a call on whether a driver is impaired.

Paul Ryan from the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) has asked the NTC to explain where officers have done their medical training, a sentiment truck driver Robert Ettery has also touched on.

"The authorised officer is not a trained medical graduate, nor a practicing doctor nor even a first year medical student and yet, they are expected to make a clinical diagnosis…," Ettery has written to the NTC.

He wants the section of the diary revoked or revised.

Ettery has also sought clarification on what constitutes work and rest. The diary states non-driving time may or may not be work depending on what demands drivers are subjected to.

It goes on to say drivers can ask an authorised officer for advice, a move trucking advocate Rod Hannifey has told the NTC will be open to interpretation.

Ettery believes the clause will lead to uncertainty and confusion unless it is amended.

"I can just see this one question alone, if let in its current form, leading to litigation and further problems," he writes.

Developed by the NTC and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), the diary aims to make it easier for drivers to comply with their obligations and put a stop to fines for clerical errors.

The new diary states occasional spelling errors are acceptable so long as the person reviewing the diary "can reasonably understand the meaning of your entry".

Along with labelling the statement ambiguous, Ettery adds that it will be open to the interpretation of authorised officers.

He says people in northern New South Wales think of Coonabarabran when someone writes ‘Coona’, while the abbreviation to people in South Australia and Western Victoria means Coonawarra.

He adds that a person in northern NSW or southern Queensland thinks of Goondiwindi when they see ‘Gundy’, but someone in southern NSW or Victoria understands the abbreviation to mean Gundagai.

"Who’s right and who’s wrong? Who’s interpretation do we rely on?" he asks.

"The amount of trouble I received from those two words was unbelievable and still to this day cause me grief."

He has also proposed officers be required to sign the driver’s diary and vehicle interception book if they are stopped for more than five minutes.

Like the existing diary, the new one says drivers can ask officers to make a note.

"In my experience, this doesn’t always happen and sometimes it can lead to a hostile response from the authorised officer," Ettery says.

He says he asked an officer at Gatton in Queensland in April this year to sign his diary after being held up for about 15 minutes. The officer refused.

He took the diary away to check it out and, upon returning with it, refused Ettery’s second request for him to sign it and became "quite agitated".

"In my view, this seems like the perfect time to take away the ambiguity of the Work Diary and Vehicle Interception Book signing and make it compulsory that authorised officers must sign both when they intercept a heavy vehicle," Ettery writes to the NTC.

He adds that he does like most of the new work diary and that removing ambiguity and references to interpretation will improve it and gain industry acceptance.

"Some of the innovations in it will make filling it out easier and it should be an easier document to understand," Ettery says.

The diary is due to be introduced on July 1 when the NHVR takes over the running of fatigue management regulations.

The diary reduces the amount of information drivers need to record and provides advice on fatigue laws to help the industry comply.

The industry has until May 20 to provide feedback on the new work diary. A final version will be considered by the end of the month.

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