PERSONAL USE EXEMPTION: AFM and BFM drivers now have an extra hour to use their fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle for personal use during their 24-hour break. INSET: Truckie Trevor Warner.
PERSONAL USE EXEMPTION: AFM and BFM drivers now have an extra hour to use their fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle for personal use during their 24-hour break. INSET: Truckie Trevor Warner. Kate Dodd

TRUCKIE: 'Another hour is not enough'

TRUCKIE Trevor Warner is thankful the government is trying to make things better for drivers but says the latest extension to the fatigue law is nothing more than a Band-Aid fix.

What he's talking about is the new extension to the Personal Use Exemption for drivers operating under Basic Fatigue Management and Advanced Fatigue Management, which grants them an additional hour to use their fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle for personal use, to be utilised during the 24-hour rest break.

Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz said the Federal Government had worked with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to extend law and described it as a "practical change to make life easier for the people that keep Australia moving”.

"That means that drivers can do things like pop to the shops to restock personal supplies, make it to their sleeping accommodation, fuel up, wash their vehicles or run personal errands without worrying about going over their regulated driving hours,” Mr Buchholz said.

But Mr Warner, a Brisbane-based driver who runs The Driver's Advocate blog, said that while the driving community would "gladly accept every exemption we can get”, only one hour to do what they needed to was not sufficient.

"When you're on a mandatory break away from home, (an hour to do everything you need) doesn't reflect reality,” he said.

More importantly, he said the problems drivers faced when they were away from their home base was that delays after delays left them out of hours in poor places to sleep, often not near any facilities.

"One instance recently in Melbourne, I tried three different stops to park, have some breakfast, a breather, tidy up and shower and the way the delays are occurring, we're more and more likely to run out of hours some distance from proper facilities,” he said.

Personal Use Exemption for drivers on standard hours was allowed in 2018 and following industry feedback the NHVR has added the extension to drivers who are eligible for BFM and AFM.

The move was welcomed by the Australian Trucking Association and Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association.

ALRTA national president Stephen Marley said the exemption would benefit BFM and AFM drivers who had the same needs as standard hours drivers when resting away from home.

"Short-distance drivers can usually make it home to access sleeping quarters, meals or washing facilities, as well as their own private vehicle for personal use,” Mr Marley said.

"In contrast, long-distance drivers are often forced to rest at inhospitable locations with no amenities whatsoever.

"Uninterrupted sleep, eating well and keeping clean are fundamental to maintaining alertness and vehicle control.

"It is also important to relieve boredom during longer breaks in isolated locations.”

The ATA said the extension followed its calls to "treat drivers like humans, not machines” and was a positive step towards more flexible fatigue management.

NHVR chief executive SalPetroccitto said the change was part of the NHVR's five-week Focus on Fatigue campaign that would include education and compliance operations across Australia in the lead-up to Christmas.

For more information onthe changes visit www.nhvr.gov.au/fatigue.