Gay reaches out to assure industry

NSW roads minister pens letter to industry to address concerns about the State's fatigue management approach under national regulations

September 16, 2013

The New South Wales Government has attempted to address industry concerns about the State’s approach to fatigue management under national heavy vehicle regulations.

Roads Minister Duncan Gay last week penned an open letter to industry focusing on the issue, ahead of the passage of the Heavy Vehicle (Adoption of National Law) Amendment Bill through the Legislative Assembly.

The Bill retains a number of existing NSW-specific initiatives, along with giving the Government the power to impose extra conditions on trucking companies accredited to operate under a new advanced fatigue management (AFM) scheme.

NSW amended the Bill to extend the maximum work limit to 15.5 hours under the new module, which is due to begin when the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is fully functioning.

"Let there be no doubt that I am listening to industry about the importance of productivity, flexibility and safety; and that is why NSW is handing the transition from the old [fatigue management] scheme to the new scheme in a considered, systematic and methodical way," Gay writes.

"NSW has always supported the concept of developing the ‘Risk Classification Scheme’ (RCS) to managing fatigue for accredited operators, however this has been on the condition of sound evidence that it effectively manages fatigue."

The Government believes it needs the power to impose extra requirements because of the level of through traffic using NSW roads and that the new scheme has not yet been trialled.

"NSW communities and roads experience interstate truck traffic like no other jurisdiction in the country by carrying 60 per cent of the national road freight task. This presents some challenging road safety and infrastructure issues for NSW," Gay says in his letter.

NatRoad last month claimed the provision would allow NSW bureaucrats to second guess fatigue experts, who would be responsible for accreditations, and lead to inconsistency.

In his response to Gay, Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Chairman David Simon congratulated NSW for adopting the new fatigue management scheme while also noting the State’s desire to impose further requirements.

"The ATA looks forward to working with NSW and the NHVR to ensure that such actions would be rare due to common agreement on AFM proposals," Simon says.

Gay also touches on the inclusion of another provision in the Bill that establishes a separate power of prosecution to the NHVR. Industry was concerned it would result in the State taking an independent approach on prosecutions, but Gay says it is not the intention.

"The inclusion of such a provision is considered necessary because it provides a clear and certain statutory framework for not only NSW but for the NHVR itself –without which there would be far too much opportunity for a defendant to challenge the basis on which a prosecution had been commenced (regardless of the facts of the case)," his letter reads.

In response, Simon says the ATA would like the Government to include a sunset clause.

"We believe that once the NHVR and associated processes are established and proven, such powers will be unnecessary," he says.

The Bill passed the Legislative Assembly last week and will now be debated in the State’s Legislative Council.

NSW passed legislation earlier this year signing it up to national heavy vehicle regulations. Along with outlining the State's approach to fatigue management, the Bill ensures NSW will retain demerit points for certain offences, its livestock loading scheme and regulations covering speed limiters and speed limits.

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