THE Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTAWA) is refusing to roll over on the State’s fatigue regime and rejects suggestions that WA truck drivers were less safe than their Eastern States counterparts.
The LRTAWA rejected comments from Toll managing director Michael Byrne, who wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull late last year outlining a six-point plan for the national transport industry.
In his letter, Mr Byrne called on the federal government to engage with WA and the Northern Territory to sign up to the Heavy Vehicle National Law.
While the LRTAWA was willing to consider signing up to the national regulations there were concerns relating to administration deficiencies of the national body experienced by drivers in other States, as well as a different operating environment in WA that needed to be taken into account.
LRTAWA president Stephen Marley said one of the most important aspects of WA’s system was that it focused on rest, not on counting hours.
“It provides drivers with the flexibility to rest when necessary not when the log book tells them to,” Mr Marley said.
“This flexibility is one of the main reasons, among others, why WA transporters do not want to sign up to the national system.”
He said it was a “myth that under WA’s fatigue laws a driver could drive for 17 hours straight”.
“WA’s Fatigue Management Code of Practice makes it very clear that the limits on the number of hours that can be worked in a 14 or 28-day period mean it is not possible to work 17-hour days,” Mr Marley said.
“Importantly a driver cannot drive for more than five hours without stopping the vehicle and there is scope for other breaks within the five-hour window.
“Under the national Advanced Fatigue Management system, which Mr Byrne says we should join, it is possible to drive for 16.5 hours.
“It is irresponsible to mislead the general public about WA’s commercial driving fatigue management.
Mr Marley agreed with Mr Byrne’s comments that there needed to be an investigation into how other drivers behaved around trucks.
“The most recent Major Accident Investigation Report from National Transport Insurance (NTI) highlighted once more that in 93 per cent of all fatal accidents where a truck and a car were involved, the driver of the car or light vehicle was found to be totally responsible,” Mr Marley said.
“The same report also found that fatigue-related accidents in WA had reduced significantly while increasing in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.”
Mr Marley said there were many issues that could be addressed to improve heavy vehicle safety including incentivising transporters to use safer, more productive combinations, increasing the number of safety bays, reviewing the frequency of medical assessments for drivers, driver training and daily fitness for duty.
“These are just a few areas where reform stands a good chance of making a difference, but it is vital we bring the industry and the community with us rather than confront it,” Mr Marley said.
He said the transport industry was subject to significant cost pressures.
“Most transport companies are small businesses with less than 20 employees and in many cases a two-person family operation,” he said.
“Small businesses in this country contribute more than half of our GDP.
“In WA small business ranks second to mining in its contribution to GDP.”
Systems and processes that are easy for large corporations to adopt and maintain could be the end of a small family operation.
“Ironically the 2017 NTI accident report established that the majority of fatigue losses were from vehicles involved in fleet operations which suggests that improvements in road safety go beyond national regulation, implementing technology or bestowing a licence to operate.”