Ombudsman Inquiry Report Critical of Fatigue Management Rules
According to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell legislating rates of pay should not be the approach to addressing the issue of safety in the transport industry.
The Ombudsman’s report into the effects of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) outlines some of the major safety concerns that were raised during the industry consultations.
The report highlighted that the inquiry was not meant to evaluate the effectiveness of existing safety initiatives, in its capacity as an advocate for small businesses. The Ombudsman’s office spoke to owner-drivers and small operators before it presented to the government and regulators which was critical of fatigue management rules.
According to an article on OwnerDriver.com.au the report states,
“The regulation of safety in the heavy vehicle industry was a prominent issue in consultations given that the payments order [Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order (RSRO)] was predicated on there being a link between remuneration and safety outcomes,”
“It was clear during consultations that the industry is genuinely committed to striving towards greater levels of safety.”
During the Ombudsman meetings, the National Heavy Vehicle Law’s (NHVR) fatigue management guidelines was one of the main areas of discussion which led to industry feedback on the issue.
The report revealed that fatigue management laws under the National Heavy Vehicle Law are “inflexible” and may result in dangerous situations including allowing a person to drive when they are fatigued.
The report went on to state,
“There appeared to be consensus that the regulations pertaining to rest breaks are too rigid and put too much pressure on drivers.
“Rest breaks are often impacted by waiting, loading and unloading times, and some drivers described ‘grey areas between resting and working time’.
“The regulations do not accommodate different types of vehicles, variations in driving conditions and driver preference.
“Drivers further described being compelled to rest when they felt most alert and permitted to drive when they were fatigued.
It also stated that the industry believed that managing fatigue through log books and work diaries was an ineffective measure. At community consultations it was agreed that training drivers to recognise fatigue would be a better approach.
They also agreed that a fatigued driver shouldn’t be driving even if it was permitted by the logbook.
Licensees rules for overseas truck drivers was also an issue of contention, with the industry believing that it was too soft.
The report went on to state:
“It is understood that those on temporary visas in Australia can drive under a heavy vehicle licence obtained in their country of origin (with only the Northern Territory having a restriction of three months).
“According to the Senate Committee Inquiry Aspects of Road Safety in Australia, it is only when an overseas driver holds a permanent visa that they are required to apply for a permanent licence in an Australian jurisdiction within three months (or six months in Victoria).
The payments order, the Ombudsman said was not the solution to road safety.
The report revealed that it was based on limited evidence of a link between remuneration and safety performance and an assumption that owner drivers were involved in more crashes than employee drivers.
The report explains the payments order would not be able to address the underlying causes of most fatal multi-vehicle accidents not caused by truck drivers.