NTC releases discussion paper on fatigue reforms

According to a discussion paper released for public consultation by the National Transport Commission (NTC) on August 31, minor legislative changes to the hours of work and rest within the Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue reforms may be warranted.

The ‘Improving the basic fatigue management option discussion paper’, explores whether amendments should be made to the reform requirements for split rests, the 14 day cycle and early starts contained within the Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) option.

Under the fatigue reforms, accredited operators who have undertaken comprehensive training and put appropriate risk management systems into place can choose to schedule hours of work and rest that allow more flexibility in their work schedule. This is known as the BFM option.

NTC CEO Nick Dimopoulos said, “Following the implementation of the new fatigue laws in late 2009, some stakeholders raised concerns about whether some minor changes could be made to the laws that would give industry greater flexibility in the scheduling of hours and rest.

“Any change to the agreed national heavy vehicle fatigue laws, even a minor change, has the potential to significantly impact road safety for drivers and the community and must therefore be carefully considered.”

The NTC formed a Basic Fatigue Management Working Group in 2009 comprised of representatives from the road transport industry, unions, government and a fatigue expert to consider whether changes were required. An expert panel of prominent fatigue experts was also formed to ensure that fatigue risk issues were thoroughly investigated.

“The NTC has been working closely with the working group and fatigue experts to ensure the draft discussion paper reflects their input prior to its release,” said Mr Dimopoulos.

“One of the key issues we have been exploring is whether drivers should be allowed to split their seven hour break into two blocks, even if it means the two blocks sum to a period exceeding seven hours.”

Under the current fatigue reforms, a long break of seven hours is required in any 24 hours.

“We have also explored whether a driver should be able to work more than seven days in a row if risk is adequately managed and whether the night rest period for drivers should be adjusted so it does not restrict drivers going to bed early and starting work early on a consistent basis,” said Mr Dimopoulos.

Under the fatigue reforms, the BFM option requires a 24 hour rest in seven days and a night rest period of between 10pm to 8am.

Mr Dimopoulos added, “I would like to thank the members of the working group and fatigue experts for their invaluable contributions to the discussion paper.

“I strongly encourage interested stakeholders to make a submission on the paper.”

The discussion paper is open for public comment until 8 October 2010 and can be downloaded on the submissions page of the NTC website.

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