OPINION: What price AFM?

By: Ken Wilkie

Will enforcement officers be up to speed on who is AFM compliant and who is the rogue?

OPINION: What price AFM?
Appropriate? Sometimes it seems so...


Interesting times! I received a notice from Queensland Transport advising that I am to undergo an appropriate medical to renew my licence this year. Yes, that has been a yearly requirement for the last 23 years. And it was that medical that found I am diabetic. Good, but the yearly medical did not reveal that I was a drop dead candidate from heart issues. That was only revealed by a stress test prior to walking Kokoda.

The stress only indicated an issue – but it did prompt further investigation. And I have walked the track twice since my bypass.

In Owner//Driver’s April issue regarding diabetes (page 33)), I don’t recall any reference to stress as being a risk factor. However, in my experience, stress is also very much a contributing factor. Stress creates a fight or flight mental reaction which in turn impacts on glucose release.

Frequent road side interviews have always caused me stress as not being a confident person and being nervous under interrogation – and the blood sugar rises. Frequent interactions with enforcement with nit-picking and serious monetary consequences for what I’d consider to be frivolous issues – in my case – have taken a toll on my health. I was once advised not to make a hobby of my health. Well now it has become a bloody obsession.

Facilities lockout

On toilet issues: these days as a subcontractor I have to bite my lip far more than in days past when I was prime contracting. I’ll coin a new term – sub customer. I have call from time to time to deliver or collect goods from a customer of my work provider. These people have to rely absolutely on road transport to conduct their business. This conceited obnoxious organisation point blank refuses truck drivers any access to their toilet facilities. They are big on driver safety but the health side is completely missing.

Employers and companies are subject to legal consequences if they are found to breach safe practices. I haven’t heard of any being hauled over the coals for breaches of health related issues. Racial discrimination? How about occupational discrimination!

Interesting times: I had a phone call from my federal member of parliament the other day. What was my experience with access to shower and toilet facilities? Hey, we’re now an essential service and they care for us. I have to say my federal bloke is one of the good guys. He has always supported me in my endeavours. To get recognition from the general media though is something different. Let’s not stuff that up by being obnoxious ourselves. Who was the idiot who abused service station staff doing what they thought was the right thing under the new laws?

It has been difficult for all to understand what is in and what is out with so much uncertainty across the board. While we in the industry have always recognised our service to be essential, we must never let the rest of society forget that road transport is on that list. And more so, we must never defecate in our own nest.

AFM offer

I received correspondence from the National (that is not national) Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) the other week. The correspondence was in regards to offering operators an option to take up Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM). Thanks for the offer and I accept that I am a wet blanket, but somebody has to offer food for thought. Most other persons are so engrossed with sucking up to bureaucracy that they are too frightened to stick their heads up.

My concern is with what is being said in providing this avenue to greater flexibility. I have an inherent difficulty with the idea of any government instrumentality playing any role in any private enterprise competition balance. To promote AFM as being a means to gain a march on your competition just does not sit well with me. A nominal fee? My dictionary describes nominal as "small in relation to real value".

One of my friends spends a week wandering around north Queensland doing sometimes oversize and at others multiple trailer work. The oversize is time consuming owing to daylight-only requirements and there is a lot getting around with the multi trailer stuff. He sometimes finds himself back on the Darling Downs at the end of his six days. A couple of hours on the seventh day would have him at home with all those advantages. The NHVR’s "nominal" fee plus the thousand dollars or more for audits?

While I detest on-road interrogation – it’s an insult to my professionalism – if we are going to see a rash of AFM operators, who is going to tell the enforcement brigade who is compliant and who is the rogue?

I have a friend who jumped ship from any organisation that has PBS accreditation – prescribed routes and the like – because the principal either couldn’t or wouldn’t enforce his drivers to be compliant. So much for GPS tracking.

I feel AFM is too much between the operator and HVR (notice I’ve dropped the N) with the driver seeming to be relegated to the role of computer or some programmable machine. Just give it oil and check the water type of discussion.

The notes talk about fitting Ice Packs. Noisy bloody things – good for the one sleeping but a pain in that other part for those nearby. Of course I support engine-off cooling but there needs more thought on what is acceptable. And there is talk about safety. Surely with all the bureaucratic hoo-ha around the current crap, one wonders how any other system could be safer.

The accredited AFM operators will not be able to use their approved systems in Western Australia or the  Northern Territory. National?

In spite of my constant criticism of being subject to roadside enforcement, I consider that a better way to go but with more realistic regulations. The NRFA’s position is much more user friendly. The industry might be able to attract the new young drivers it so desperately needs without the driver persecution that is so much part of the current occupation prejudice. Responsible sensible people would have nothing to fear and the industry would be freed of more expensive overhead for little financial gain. Ask George Birbeck to provide a copy of National Road Freighters Association’s (again the national bit is more ambition than reality) position on fatigue.

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