STRONG OPINIONS: Is the National Driver Work Diary out of date in the age of technology or not needed at all?
STRONG OPINIONS: Is the National Driver Work Diary out of date in the age of technology or not needed at all?

Truckies work diaries and 'draconian penalties' under fire

A READER poll published by Big Rigs has shown overwhelming support for the idea that Queensland joins Western Australia and the Northern Territory with a more flexible approach to fatigue management.

The poll demonstrated a unanimous dissatisfaction with the work diary system.

An unprecedented vote from more than 1000 respondents has answered in the affirmative to the question:

Should Queensland join WA and the NT to withdraw as a signatory of the National Heavy Vehicle Law and partially deregulate the fatigue management regime?

The results of the poll were 98% replying yes to the question and 2% not agreeing, and in the age of social media this is as close a poll could get to a unanimous decision.

The poll came about after Big Rigs was approached many times by truck operators who say larger states such as Queensland would be better off running under the systems used in WA and the NT.

In these jurisdictions the onus is on industry, in consultation with government, to manage fatigue with flexible regimes.

Work diaries and the draconian penalty systems around them were what most concerned the pollrespondents.

The results of the poll were statistically significant and while Big Rigs does not take a position either side in the debate, it is the responsibility of the publication to publish the results.

These results can best be told through the following poll responses that reflect the attitudes from dozens of comments. All these respondents have supplied their full names but we will stick to first names as they make their feelings known.

Jeff says he is all for regulation and making the highways safe for all road users but "I continually see circumstances where my drivers have to pull over for a continuous seven-hour rest break when they are not tired. They sit for the seven hours and can't sleep. Then when it's time to go, they feel tired. With all the new fatigue detecting technology available, surely there is a better solution".

Myron thinks regulated journey times would be a better approach. "Brisbane to Townsville is approximately 1200km and there should be a minimum travel time of two days. There would be no pressure to beat the clock and to do the kilometres to make the money." He said this may cause an increase in costs in products but would deliver safer roads.

Russell doesn't think work diaries will ever be dumped in Queensland because "they raise too much revenue". He agrees there needs to be some sort of control but "the rules definitely need changing".

He says the prescribed 24-hour cycle with a forced seven-hour break whether you are tired or not is not working: "99% of us are grown-up people, we're not out there to kill ourselves or the rest of the community. We have all got family to come home to."

Dave reckons professional drivers should be allowed to use their allocated work hours as suits them. "In a 24-hour period this would eliminate working when tired and resting when not tired. The fact that there are 24 or more pages at the front of a log book to explain its use is ridiculous."

Gary says a driver will get more fatigued waiting to unload or when roadworks are scheduled during peak hours without any viable alternate routes. "There's a whole plethora of issues that need to be addressed and managers and regulators have absolutely no idea."

Phil says most drivers know their body clock. "I always know when to grab some time (to rest) and if I'm unable to do so I know I need a special effort to keep alert for that hour or so."

Darren agrees the work diary should be dumped and suggests "all heavy vehicles should be off the road between 11pm and 5am when out of a capital city unless you have a permit to run at night".

Sharon says all the work diary does is restrict drivers to know for themselves when they need to pull up. "When you can be be fined due to a mistake in the spelling of a place name etc, it's not fair on the drivers. It isn't the work diary that will fix fatigue issues, it's the companies that expect too much from the drivers."

Craig believes the work diary system should be dumped and says "why does Big Rigs have to ask this question? The government c**ks don't listen to us".

Karen cuts straight to the point. "I feel a burn the book day is coming up! Should have happened years ago."

So what does all this mean? Big Rigs did not set the poll up to quantify accurate statistics, rather it opened a channel for people in the road transport industry to express themselves.

It is not this newspaper's role to set itself up as an arbiter of opinion but it can be a platform for opinions to be expressed.

If nothing else this exercise shows an overwhelming and passionate response to the question posed.

It is up to government and policy makers to ask themselves some hard questions: Did they really capture the feeling from the road when making changes in legislation?

And most of all, did they get it right when it comes to safety issues?

Seems to be that a lot of people don't think so.