Electronic diaries could lead to $4k fines for minor rest breaches, ATA warns

A minor error could have major consequences for truck drivers using electronic work diaries

Electronic diaries could lead to $4k fines for minor rest breaches, ATA warns
Australian Trucking Association CEO Chris Melham.


Time tolerances to be granted to truck drivers using highly-accurate electronic work diaries (EWD) should be reviewed after two years, the Australian Trucking Association says.

The proposal is one of the recommendations the ATA has put to a Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the Heavy Vehicle National Law Amendment Bill.

While the ATA backs the Bill, ATA CEO Chris Melham believes the treatment of small breaches of work and rest rules for electronic diaries has not been properly considered.

Drivers are currently required to fill out written work diaries and they are required to round time periods to the nearest 15 minutes.

"The electronic diaries that would be approved under this Bill would replace the need for written work diaries, potentially offering a considerable reduction in the red tape burden faced by operators and drivers," Melham says.

"These systems would automatically round to the nearest one minute interval, with a maximum work time tolerance of eight minutes in a 24-hour period.

"There would be no tolerance for errors in rest times."

The ATA believes these differences will create a two-tiered regulatory system, with EWD users facing a significantly tighter regulatory regime than those using written work diaries.

"As a result, we expect that many operators and drivers would decide to continue using the written diaries, despite potential red tape savings," Melham says.

South Australia Road Transport Association (SARTA) executive director Steve Shearer raised these concerns last year and that industry support for the devices was at risk of falling away because of the issue.

The ATA says the ideal approach is to make amendments to address the industry’s concerns, or for governments to commit to a National Transport Commission (NTC) recommendation to review the measure.

"Alternatively, the NTC’s recommended two-year review of the tolerances should be locked in to the NTC work program and NHVR corporate plans now," Melham says.

The ATA’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry uses a real-world work example to demonstrate the differences in the diary systems.

In thee example, a driver takes an early rest break to have a nap but rests for 29 minutes instead of 30 minutes.

This minor error will disappear in a written work diary, as the driver will round the break up to 30 minutes.

However, an EWD will record every minute of discrepancy and will expose the driver to a maximum penalty of $4,100 unless an extra 15 minute work break is taken.

The submission also reiterates the ATA’s call for electronic diaries use to be on a voluntary basis only.

"Although EWDs could offer great advantages for some businesses, installing them would be an unnecessary cost for small operators or those who don’t currently fall under work diary requirements," Melham says.

"In the ATA’s view, the only situation where EWDs should be mandatory is where a court orders an operator to install them after convicting the operator of an offence."

The Bill, introduced on May 19, aims to change provisions in the HVNL to allow the use of EWDs, revise penalties to ensure consistency and equity and reduce administrative requirements on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), along with addressing technical issues.


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