Eight minute rule for EWDs passed by ministers

TRUCK drivers choosing electronic work diaries (EWDs) won't be fined for small breaches of less than eight minutes under new policy settings agreed to by transport ministers on May 23.

The changes will also better protect drivers' privacy and help authorities target the small number of people who break the law.

CEO of the NTC Paul Retter said the EWD policy settings agreed by ministers represented a win for drivers and operators who took their safety responsibilities seriously.

"These new rules mean that drivers who inadvertently go a few minutes over time between breaks won't be penalised for these small breaches," Mr Retter said.

"We want authorities to target those people who systematically flaunt the laws that are meant to keep all road users safe."

Recognising that small breaches with very little fatigue impact may occasionally occur, regulations will be introduced so that heavy vehicle drivers using an EWD and operating in standard hours or Basic Fatigue Management, will not incur a minor risk breach if their work time is exceeded by up to eight minutes.

The eight minute rule will not apply to rest time and drivers will have a total of eight minutes for a whole 24 hour period, starting from a major rest break.

For example, a driver who exceeds work time by five minutes in the first period of work may only exceed work time by up to three minutes for the rest of that 24-hour period, unless the driver makes up for the five minutes at a later time in that day.

This is intended to make it impractical to deliberately schedule the additional eight minutes as work time.

The effectiveness of the approach will be reviewed after two years of initial uptake by industry.

"The implementation of EWDs will be voluntary, but written diaries are onerous and truck drivers occasionally forget to fill in the diary or make mistakes. EWDs make it much easier to show that you are staying safe and complying with the law. They also help drivers meet their safety needs because they can automatically alert drivers when breaks are required," Mr Retter said.

"Drivers will no longer need to carry print-outs of EWD information and, unlike written diaries, they do not have to record time in 15 minute blocks."

EWDs will remain a voluntary alternative to the written work diary.

Draft laws will be presented to transport ministers in November with a view to implementing them next year.

Agreement on the policy settings and the legislative approach to EWDs is an important step towards the development of an approvals process and EWD implementation by the NHVR.

See the EWD Policy paper and recommendations on the NTC website.

Developing EWDs and other telematics solutions, raises important questions about how the information collected by these devices can be used to enforce the road safety laws.

"The NTC has been given the green light to develop a new compliance framework for telematics with clear rules for enforcement officers," Mr Retter said.

"We have worked with industry and government stakeholders to find policy solutions that will help everyone unlock the benefits of the technology.

"This important technology makes compliance easier and now we have a practical framework to give truck drivers peace of mind about how the data is used.

"Operators using EWDs already benefit from being told when they need to legally take a break and have less paper work to do - now they can rest easy that personal information is protected."

The key features of the compliance framework will be:

  • Strong and clear privacy protections to guard against unreasonable enforcement.
  • Publicly-available, transparent and accountable policies and processes.
  • Providing enforcement agencies with better tools to target high-risk operators and make better use of resources.
  • Minimum standards for all telematics used for enforcement, which will protect drivers from incorrect information and potentially false breaches.

The paper suggests a way forward, recognising that there are opportunities to improve roadside enforcement, audit-based schemes, chain of responsibility and industry schemes with the adoption of telematics.

The compliance framework for heavy vehicles telematics will help deliver these outcomes by providing policy certainty for those in the industry who choose to use telematics, such as EWDs.

The framework recognises that operators may want to use telematics for commercial purposes, and this information is treated differently to regulatory telematics.

National Transport Insurance identified fatigue as a factor in 11.9% of serious incidents in 2011.

"If we want fewer crashes on our roads, drivers need common sense regulations that make it easier to be safe without costing taxpayers huge amounts to catch the few cowboys who ignore the rules," Mr Retter said.

The framework was endorsed by the recent meeting of transport ministers held last month. It will be implemented by the NTC later this year.

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