Counting On Change

Late in April the National Transport Commission released a draft copy of the soon to be released National Driver Work Diary. The NTC has, at the behest of the NHVR, made what I believe to be a valid attempt to make Work Diaries easier to understand and complete. This should assist drivers (and regulators) to better understand what is required and reduce the incidence of administrative errors. The new books won’t be released before 1 July so don’t go panicking that you need a new one already.

There has been much debate in the Social Media and at road houses as to the benefit of these changes.

The NTC states on their website, “The new diary will have simplified daily sheets and will also be accompanied by advice on the fatigue laws so drivers can easily reference information most relevant to their duties. These changes will make it simpler, quicker and clearer for drivers to fill out the daily sheets as there is less information required and not as much duplication.”

Some of the other amendments include:

  • drivers will only have to record their vehicle registration once a day or if their vehicle changes, rather than at every break
  • drivers will only have to record the location and odometer reading at the start of a rest break, and not when finishing their break too
  • drivers will only be required to record their operator’s Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) or Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) accreditation number once in the diary (or again if it changes), rather than on every daily sheet
  • solo drivers are no longer required to record the state or territory where their licence was issued
    a new optional comments section is included to allow recording of information such as delays and notes made by authorised officers.

Much of the complaint about the changes is based around the argument that the underlying legislation is in fact inappropriate. I agree in part but the project was never about fixing the legislation, this has been and probably will continue to be an issue for debate elsewhere.

If we remove these objections to the benefit of the changes cited I feel we’re left with two schools of thought, those that applaud it and those that feel it’s a waste of time. If it saves me time and reduces the opportunity to make administrative errors then I can only support their effort and applaud the fact that the NHVR has, through the NTC, improved something of benefit to we, the drivers.

In response to the NTC request for feedback on this matter I’ve forwarded them two submissions.
Firstly that the sample page in the draft has an error. At 1pm Greg Smith transitions from rest to work as part of a two up team. Under the new guidelines there is no requirement to duplicate the location and odometer entries at the end of a rest break if these details have not changed. Based on the information presented on the page these details must have changed and should have been completed. Secondly, that the daily work and rest hours totals should be deleted from the page. Why? Because drivers are still confused about what constitutes a 24 hour period… When counting hours under the fatigue management legislation a 24 hr period can only be counted forwards from the end of a relevant major rest break of five or more hours. This means that unless you commence work at midnight a Work Diary pages does not constitute a 24 hour period for the purpose of counting hours.
So what? Well for a one thing it’s possible to have a page with a work hours total in excess of 14 hours under the BFM rules without having a breach. Let me demonstrate…

On the first page a driver commences work at 10pm and stops at 11pm. His first 24 hour period commences at the end of his relevant major rest break, 10pm and will continue until 10pm on the second day. He rests for one hour and recommences his journey at midnight giving him a total of 1 hour for the first page. Page two starts with a period of work from midnight to 6am, a half hour rest and then another period of work from 6:30am until 7am. Since our driver commenced his journey he has completed 7.5 hours of work. He now rests until 3pm, 8 hours. When he recommences at 3pm he also starts another 24 hour period although he still remains in the first one until 10pm. He drives from 3pm until 9pm and starts again at 9:30pm. So far in his first 24 hour period he’s worked a total of 13.5 hours. By 10pm he’s worked 14 hours in his first 24 hour period. This is the legal maximum under BFM but as this is the end of his first legally countable period he’s able to continue on until quarter past midnight at which point he decides to have a 15 minute rest. His work hours for the calendar day are 6 + 0.5 + 6 + 2.5, totaling 15 hours but he’s remained within the law. On the third page he commences working a 12:30 am, has another 15 minute rest at 2:45 am and continues until 6 am. He now rests until 3pm, the end of his second 24 hour period and has driven a total of 14 hours in his second legally countable 24 hour period. At 3pm he starts driving again and commences his third 24 hour period. He rests for 15 minutes at 9pm and continues until 11:45 pm giving him a total of 14 hours work on that page. What he does after that is irrelevant to this example but we’ve clearly demonstrated that a page total in excess of 14 hours is possible under BFM without a breach.

What then are these page totals there for? I really have no answer but suspect they are a legacy of the previous (pre 2008) legislation and that the only possible reason for their existence now would be to facilitate the counting of hours for longer durations such as 14 days. This they do poorly for BFM as night hours, long hours etc start to become an issue. A better solution could be to have running totals on each page but this would become complex and open up another avenue for error.

I doubt they’ll get rid of them although I’d like to think I’ve offered a compelling argument. More importantly I hope this enlightens those who are confused about what constitutes a 24 hour period for the purposes of counting hours and how a calendar day seldom constitutes such a period.

To keep track of your hours correctly without bursting an aneurism I’d strongly recommend getting a copy of “Logbook Checker” from the iTunes Store. It’s cheaper than a fine and a piece of cake to use.