Keep track of time or fall into the trap

By: Sarah Marinovic*


LEGAL OPINION: Everyone is subject to ‘human error’, but for truck drivers it can end up as an out-of-pocket expense

Keep track of time or fall into the trap
Get into the habit of checking yesterday’s work diary page to confirm when your 24-hour period starts

 

Work diary breaches are one of the most common types of cases we help truck drivers with. Over the years we’ve found there are a few common mistakes that cause most breaches.

One thing we’ve noticed is that it’s not just new drivers who fall into these traps. We often speak with very experienced drivers who know and follow the rules but still find themselves having to go to court. It boils down to the fact that we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

We hope that by taking a moment to talk about these common errors that we can help drivers avoid finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Trap 1: Major rest breaks don’t ‘reset’ the clock

The first mistake that a lot of drivers make is thinking that their major rest break restarts the clock.

The 24-hour period starts from the end of a ‘major rest break’. For a standard hours’ solo driver, that’s the seven-hour break. The definition of the major rest break for other types of drivers (e.g. BFM or two-up) is on page 22 of the work diary.

This means that once you finish your major rest break the 24-hour clock starts running. You need to make sure you don’t work over your allowable hours and take the required rest breaks in that period.

The problem happens when a driver takes a second major rest break within that 24-hour period. Lots of drivers mistakenly think that the clock is reset, i.e. they stop worrying about the first 24-hour period and only need to worry about the 24 hour period starting from the end of their second major rest break.

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. In reality the driver now has two 24-hour periods running that they need to focus on; one running from the end of the first major rest break and the other running from the end of the second major rest break. You need to make sure you comply with the work and rest hours for both 24-hour periods.

This mistake often happens when a driver works just a few hours one day, has a long break and then works a full day the next. The time from the first day can get counted towards the time from the second and the driver finds themselves over their allowed work hours even though they’ve had plenty of breaks.

Trap 2: Starting your day too early

The second mistake is one we are seeing quite often lately. It’s where drivers accidentally start their workday too early.

As discussed above, once a 24-hour clock starts running it continues until that period finishes, even if the driver has another major rest break.

We see a lot of drivers who work a full day take their overnight break and then accidentally start a couple of hours too early on the second day. The first couple of hours of the second day get counted towards the first, putting them over their work hour limit.


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This mistake seems to happen most when a driver’s usual routine has been interrupted. Perhaps they’ve started later than usual one day, and then the next day set off at their normal time without thinking about the change in routine the day before.

Avoiding mistakes

The steps to avoid these mistakes are simple but can save drivers from the pain of being sent to court for an unintentional mistake.

The three main things are:

1. Always be conscious of the 24-hour periods. It’s a good idea that whenever you finish a major rest break to make a note, or a little mark, showing where the 24-hour period finishes

2. Double check before starting work for the day. Getting into the habit of checking yesterday’s work diary page to confirm when your 24-hour period starts and finishes can help you avoid accidentally setting off too early

3. Be on alert when your routine changes. A change in your normal plans is a risk for mistakes so is a good trigger to take a moment to double check.

 

*SARAH MARINOVIC is a principal solicitor at Ainsley Law – a firm dedicated to traffic and heavy vehicle law. She has focused on this expertise for over a decade, having started her career prosecuting for the RMS, and then using that experience as a defence lawyer helping professional drivers and truck owners. For more information email Sarah at sarah@ainsleylaw.com.au or phone 0416 224 601.

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