What’s the go with on-board telematics?

It’s recently come to my attention that there is a lot of confusion in the industry about on-board telematics, electronic work diaries, and the ATA’s stance on these technologies.

The ATA supports the voluntary use of on-board telematics for companies that find they have a business case for these technologies – for instance, through improved route access, better delivery time estimates, red tape reduction or similar advantages.

We also support the voluntary use of electronic work diaries (EWDs), subject to the NTC’s planned review of work time rounding for these systems. Like on-board telematics, EWDs could offer great advantages for some businesses. However, installing them would be an unnecessary cost for many businesses, such as owner-drivers or a business that only operates heavy vehicles occasionally.

In addition, the risk of facing a stricter EWD regulatory regime is likely to deter operators from swapping over their paper work diaries. The electronic diaries approved under the National Heavy Vehicle Law and regulations automatically round to the nearest one minute interval, with a tolerance for small work time breaches of eight minutes in a 24 hour period. There is no tolerance for errors in rest times.

The NTC has already committed to review the treatment of small work time breaches after two years. This review is essential, but also needs to consider if there should be a tolerance applied to the length of rest periods to make sure that EWD users are not subject to a stricter regulatory regime than those who use paper diaries.

Technology like this can be a really valuable business tool. There are already plenty of cases where businesses have been able to use GPS data to assess and improve route efficiencies, and dash cam evidence has proved to be invaluable for drivers who have been involved in accidents that were not their fault.

Continuing on this line of thought, wouldn’t it make sense for compliance and enforcement regimes to reduce their roadside interactions with companies who are fully using telematics and electronic work diaries?

It’s not a new idea. In the United Kingdom, insurers offer different premiums to drivers with telematics data available. I would certainly hope and expect that the Australian insurance sector also recognises the use of this risk-management tool, and provides preferred treatment for operators who take it on.

Of course, there are plenty of people who rightly have concerns over the privacy of these new technologies, and how their information will be used.

The use and privacy of telematics and EWD data must be clearly stated by governments and regulatory bodies before operators are asked to opt-in to any scheme requiring such technologies. The data must be restricted so it can only be used under approved and appropriate circumstances.

The NTC has also recognised this issue. In its compliance and enforcement framework for heavy vehicle telematics document released in 2014, the NTC states that information derived from telematics systems must only be accessed by public authorities for the regulatory purposes for which they were intended.

For example, a telematics system installed only to meet regulatory requirements under the Heavy Vehicle National Law must not be accessed for any other regulatory, enforcement or investigatory purpose unless a court-issued warrant is obtained.
Ultimately, the whole issue of telematics and EWDs must come back to road safety.

What difference will this technology make to your operations?

The trucking industry can be proud of its improving safety record, but this isn’t time to get complacent – any fatality or injury on our roads is one too many. 

That’s why I challenge the government and industry to leverage this technology to improve our safety record and our industry even further. Telematics and EWDs could create significant safety improvements for Australia’s heavy vehicle fleet – we need to work with government to make sure this happens, rather than creating miles of electronic red tape instead.

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