New diaries may mean better productivity, says MP

CONCERNS: South Australian Road Transport Association's executive officer, Steve Shearer.
CONCERNS: South Australian Road Transport Association's executive officer, Steve Shearer.

Handwritten log books can be a thing of the past for many truck drivers with the introduction of the recently approved Electronic Work Diaries (EWD).

The electronic system, approved by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, means drivers can put down the pen, making it easier for them to record work and rest hours.

Despite the new electronic diary being approved, the heavy vehicle law has not changed in South Australia.

South Australian Road Transport Association executive officer, Steve Shearer, explained how the laws were in the process of changing and were currently under a major review.

"We are about half way through it - we are about another two years away from changing the law," Mr Shearer said.

"Some drivers do not need to use a work diary at all ... only about 22 per cent of them need to use a work diary at the moment and that is because most people work within 100km of their base."

Truck drivers must fill in a full 15 minute block within their diary as they must rest for at least this amount of time during break periods - if a truck driver rests for any less than that it will be displayed in their diary as 0 minutes of rest.

If a driver rests for 25 minutes, they cannot round that up to two quarter of an hour blocks as the law states that the rest periods must be rounded down to the nearest interval.

Mr Shearer argued that if a truck driver were to leave a minute earlier than they are supposed to after resting, the electronic diary will detect this and round it down, potentially creating numerous minor breaches within one's diary that could result in fines from police officers during regular checks.

"Because the law at the moment has no tolerance for minor errors by drivers, if you have 18 minutes of rest, you do not get any credit for the extra three minutes," he said.

The executive officer finished by explaining that SARTA's board members have actively been making a recommendation to those within the industry, stressing the importance of being careful while using an electronic diary to record one's hours.

"Our very strong recommendation for everyone in the industry is to be very very careful about using an electronic work diary because while it is great administratively and you do not have to do all that paper work but a police officer can pull you up and they can require you to press a button on the electronic work diary and it will spit out a list of all those minor breaches ... the policeman will write up and almost none of those breaches would have any significance from a fatigue management point of view."

"Our expectation is that very few truck drivers and companies will use them until the laws change in two years time once the laws change we expect everyone will use them under the new law that we are talking about there is even discussion of dropping the mandatory requirements."

Federal Member for Barker Tony Pasin believes that investing in EWDs was an investment in employee safety and would result in better productivity.

"We know that the transport industry is managing excessive amounts of work diary paperwork and this is resulting in inefficiencies and lower productivity," Mr Pasin said.

"EWDs puts a greater focus on managing driver fatigue, rather than managing the book - that is an important step in improving safety for the trucking and transport industry."

The EWD Policy Framework and Standards were developed in association with technology providers, transport operators, police and transport authorities in 2018 and were subject to comprehensive review and consultation.

Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz said Australian companies Step Global and Teletrac Navman were technology partners with a number of heavy vehicle operators, which should see a broad rollout across industry.

"This approval gives the providers the green light to work with their partners to use their products as an approved fatigue management system," Mr Buchholz said.

"We know both technology companies have a number of transport and logistics operators that are ready and eager to adopt the technology and we should see a good uptake across the industry."

This story Electronic work diaries approved for truck drivers first appeared on Border Chronicle.