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ATA says NHVR should change its approach to fatigue enforcement

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Andrew McKellar says the NHVR should change its approach to fatigue enforcement and reduce fines for minor paperwork offences.

These calls came as McKellar released the ATA’s submission to the NHVR on its draft 2021-2025 heavy vehicle safety strategy.

McKellar said the ATA was pleased to see the draft emphasises the need to build a positive safety culture in the industry but added that the key to doing this is fairness. “People are not going to report safety issues if they feel they will be unfairly blamed or issued with an infringement notice,” he said.

“That’s why the NHVR should press governments to reduce fines for minor paperwork offences and change its enforcement approach.

“The national truck driver work diary includes 27 pages of instructions. It is policed with zero tolerance for trivial mistakes, such as failing to draw vertical lines between work and rest periods or failing to sign each page.

“Obsessing over missing signatures and minor errors does not make the roads safer. It makes truck driving a maze of random traps, with the ever-present possibility of punitive fines.

“The approach we are recommending is common sense. It is also supported by safety research across industries as varied as offshore oil production, aerospace and medicine. Safety scientists even have a term for what we need. It’s called a ‘just culture.’

“The NHVR has previously committed to this just culture approach. It should now advocate for amendments to the HVNL and make changes to its policies to reinforce it,” he said.

The submission calls on the NHVR to recognise the safety benefits of increasing the use of high productivity freight vehicles.

“High productivity freight vehicles improve safety because they reduce the number of trucks on the road. There is simply less potential for crashes,” McKellar said.

“For example, you need 42 standard semi-trailers to move 1,000 tonnes of freight. Only 21 PBS 30 metre A-doubles would be needed to move the same amount.

“In addition, high productivity freight vehicles are likely to have the latest safety technology; their drivers are typically more experienced and, depending on the vehicle, may need to hold a higher class of licence,” he said.

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