Flexible fatigue rules for the Bush

At their national meeting on 18 May, the nation’s transport Ministers also approved the next steps in setting up the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

Critically, those steps take us just that little bit closer to the National Regulator having the legal power to deliver more flexible fatigue rules for rural operators.

Just this morning I had a driver on the phone asking when we will see these rules changed. This member is a bloke who’s based in Victoria but regularly works all over the country, for one of the biggest operators in our industry. He was complaining to me that he often runs up to Queensland, and then does market work in Queensland for several days before trying to come home.

He only does short hours and works in daylight while in Queensland but, because of the 84 hour rule, he gets trapped and cannot get home. The practical effect is that he may see his wife and family for as little as one weekend in the month.

That’s exactly the sort of problem we’re trying to fix under the National Regulator.

I reckon there’s still probably a year to go before governments will be ready for the National Regulator to start offering better hours to rural operators.

But last fortnight’s decision was an important step forward. Every time the Ministers decide to let the process take a step forward, gives us another opportunity to build up their trust and understanding of what we’re trying to get in improvements to these laws, and why it matters.

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