The announcement this week by the National Transport Commission that it has listened to industry feedback, and sought the views of jurisdictions, and will not propose a reduction in weekly hours for truck drivers is a major backdown on much tighter fatigue rules.
“A number of fatigue issues were on the table at our workshop this week, and it was important to hear firsthand from industry, in their own words, why the current outer weekly limits for fatigue are fit for purpose for Australia and its particular geography and supply chains,” said Dr Gillian Miles, NTC Chief Executive Officer and Commissioner.
The NTC said it understands that reducing the weekly hours of truck drivers could have perverse safety and productivity outcomes. Some long-haul drivers couldn’t get back home in a 60-hour work week, while others may need to find a second job to bridge the pay gap, defeating the safety intent.
However, some changes to fatigue rules are not off the table.
“The NTC will continue to work with industry and jurisdictions to ensure a flexible and tiered approach to fatigue management that is suited to Australian conditions,” said Gillian.
For NatRoad, the National Transport Commission’s backdown is a victory for common sense, and NatRoad CEO Warren Clark questioned why the proposal advanced as far as it did.
“This idea had industry-wrecking potential and should never have gone past the ‘thought bubble’ stage,” said Warren. “Safety is paramount for my members and we will always support sensible proposals for improvements that are based on sound evidence. This was not.
“On the NTC’s own admission, rather than reduce fatigue, it could have had the opposite effect by forcing some drivers into second jobs. It is symptomatic of the wider problem that the National Heavy Vehicle Law reform process is broken and needs a re-design.”
The back down was also welcomed by Scott Buchholz, Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport.
“I welcome the decision by the NTC today to maintain working hours for truck drivers,” said Scott. “This is a common sense outcome, a win for our industry and for truck drivers across Australia.
“I would like to thank those who raised this issue with me and my office and the NTC including State and National associations as well as other transport and logistics industry stakeholders.