Fatigue laws too rigid, says truck driving solicitor

By: Greg Bush, Photography by: Greg Bush

Qualified solicitor and long-haul truck driver Joanne Emery believes Australia’s fatigue laws are too inflexible.

Fatigue laws too rigid, says truck driving solicitor
Qualified solicitor Joanne Emery in truck driving mode at Nolan's Interstate Transport depot at Gatton.


Expat Englishwoman Joanne Emery’s venture into long-haul truck driving has enabled her to see the other side of equation when it comes to road enforcement. And it’s the transport side of Joanne’s recently launched law practice – Emery Legal – that she’s keen to focus on.

Joanne has had a long career as a solicitor in both England and Australia. However, her truck driving exploits over the past nine years have taken her all around Europe, through North America and now Australia where she does a weekly changeover for Nolan’s Interstate Transport out of Gatton in south east Queensland.

"I look back to the arguments as a solicitor that I used to put forward pre driving, and I would say things so differently now," Joanne says.

"I was approaching it like a lot of people who set the rules and the regulations do, as somebody who worked in an office.

"Take drivers’ hours for example. As an office person, it makes sense that a driver shouldn’t drive for more than five or six hours in one go.

"But as a driver, there are times when I’m up on the six hours, and I am not anywhere near ready to stop. I’m as alert as I was six hours ago, and I’ve got to actually stop."

Joanne admits that her most difficult time driving is the first three hours from Gatton to Goondiwindi, whether she leaves at 11am or 6pm.

"I struggle, but I shouldn’t because I’m at the beginning of my driving period.

"There’s been certain times when I’ve been really tired and I want to pull up, but I know if I pulled up then it would make me break the law further down the road," Joanne says.

"I don’t know who the legislators speak to when they set drivers’ hours, or what have you, but to me the drivers should have a lot more input.

"Every driver will tell you the same – ‘I want to pull up, but I can’t pull up’. But the reality is, this is one of those jobs that until you do that job, you never really know."

Joanne says the inflexibility of the Australian system compares with England and the European legislation.

"Every four and a half hours you have to have 45 minutes off," she says. "Again, it’s written by a person in an office because that makes sense to them."

Joanne considers the Canadians to have the superior system, where drivers can keep going for 13 hours a day.

"You manage those 13 hours how you want, but what they bank on is most drivers are going to need to go to the toilet, and most drivers are going to stop to eat."

Nevertheless, Joanne considers the Australian road authorities quite "laid back" compared to those in England.

"If there’s a problem with your truck at home, you’re parked up until it’s fixed. If you’re overloaded, you’re parked up until that truck isn’t overloaded," she says.

"In Australia there seems to be a common sense approach for the most part."

Read the full story behind Joanne Emery's career change in the April 2016 edition of Owner//Driver magazine.

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