Opinion

Is the NHVR really listening to the industry?

Every day, transport workers tell us that it gets harder to do the job. Now the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, the organisation responsible for setting the rules, is promoting the idea that you can drive up to 16 hours a day, under Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM).

The TWU is astounded that the NHVR is encouraging employers to sign up to a system which allows them to work drivers harder.

The Australian Trucking Association, a lobby group for employers is behind AFM which in eastern states allows truckies to drive for up to 15.5 hours in a day.

Is this really necessary? The union is concerned about the level of fatigue this can create. The union is also concerned about the lack of attention paid to fatigue issues that already exist in the industry.

We understand the need to be able to complete routes more effectively than your competitors, but given the history of this industry, the number of unscrupulous employers and contractors that take advantage of drivers already, what enforcement will actually be used maintain the shared responsibility for a driver’s safety?

Last month in Canberra, the TWU laid down 58 crosses on the lawn of the Parliament House, one for each life lost by a truck driver whilst at work. We do not want more deaths on our roads due to fatigue.

Getting employers to sign up to a system with gruelling work schedules that sweats drivers is not the job of the regulator. The regulator wants “counter-measures” in place if you choose to use AFM. This means a need to submit a “safety case” outlining how you will combat fatigue on the job.

This means, fatigue is recognised as an issue, and if you have to combat it rather than relieve it then there is a fundamental flaw in the system.

Before the regulator runs the new ideas of the employer lobby groups up their flagpole, where is the support for the existing issues including fatigue that the Regulator still needs to consider?

The TWU are still asking about adequate rest areas that are missing off the sides of our highways. Fatigue management is already a problem. The industry needs legislated payment schedules and needs relief for toll road costs, these are things that are part of the story for a safer and fairer industry, not yet dealt with by the Regulator.

The regulator needs to understand that without measures put in place that take into account the current problems in the industry, then the reality for transport workers and their families is that they are simply future road toll, simply a statistic that does not acknowledge the pressure on drivers to get their loads on time no matter what the circumstances in so many companies.

At the TWU, we support any measures that can make our roads safer, but not at the expense of a driver already facing a load of problems not supported by governments.

Let’s get drivers home safely, every day.

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