16th June 2019 Be heard!

Goodaye all. Have you read the NTC Fatigue paper? Yes it is 60 pages, but do you have a problem with our fatigue laws? If so, will you do something to see them improved. A month ago, I went to court in Gilgandra for my first ever log book offence in 30 years on the road. It is in my column in Owner Driver this month and the following, is what I wrote before I attended court, so I would have my list of reasons why the ticket should be dismissed.

1. The alleged offense on the 26th November 2019 was not intentional. I did not drive 14 plus hours straight. I overlapped a half hour. It can be difficult to remember every period driven and your breaks and to do so, you must then continually go back and forth in your logbook. Having had a 7 hour break the night before, had things gone as normal, I would have been later getting out of Melbourne and then been legal. It is unusual to get out of Melbourne early and as I went in empty and was lucky to get loaded straight away, I thought, this is good, I will beat the traffic and get most of the way home for a good nights sleep.

2. The logbook states in rules for counting time, “Count time periods of 24 hours or longer forward from the end of a relevant major rest break relevant to the period in your hours option” Who then decides which is the “relevant” period? If it is about managing fatigue, I only worked for 6 and a quarter hours, then had a 7 hour break. I did not have to go far to go to bed, nor to start work. My truck is fitted with an Icepack, a refrigerated air conditioning system that ensures consistent temperature and covers much outside noise, so I did get good sleep in that break. I also ensured that sleep was from around midnight and did so again the next day, so have made every effort to be off the road in the very early hours of the morning, recognised as the worst time for fatigue. I overlapped at 6.15PM the following night and did have a break from 7PM till 7.45 for my tea and then stopped at Parkes at 12.15AM for 9 and a quarter hours break. I stopped to manage my fatigue, I was not in any way shape or form, fatigued at 6.15PM

3. On Wednesday the 28th November at 5.30PM, two days after the alleged breach I was stopped and inspected, my logbook checked and signed at Daroolbaggie with no concern raised. This officer must obviously have used the end of the seven hour period as the “relevant” period. He obviously did not detect me then as fatigued, nor see me as in breach.

4. The logbook requires us to operate in 15 minute periods. We are required to count work time forward and so can “lose” and or give away, work time. In the 24 hour period in question, I stopped 8 times. Even if I lost only 3 minutes each of those times and it could have been up to 10 minutes, then it is quite likely if the actual time was counted, I may not have exceeded 14 hours. I have already previously written to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator asking for the wording to be changed to read, “count forward from the LAST major rest break” to both allow us a minor amount of flexibility and to overcome this type of overlap error and the subsequent penalties. I have also written and will be doing so again, to the current National Heavy Vehicle Law Review, seeking this change and a way to recognise a good record and allow one mistake in a given period.

5. I did ask the officer if he had looked at my record and he said it was, “not bad”. I have driven interstate for 30 years, done 6 million kilometres and never had a single logbook offense and only one speeding warning. I have never ever “lost” a logbook to hide an error and am very involved in road safety and try to do the right thing. I would hope you might agree one minor overlap in 30 years is not the record of a law breaker and that with this, a warning, again considering the RMS saw no breach, would have been reasonable. I will be writing the HVNL review asking to have something put in place that will allow a minor error every five years (or around one million kilometres for most interstate truck drivers) as no one is perfect. All drivers are allowed one mistake in every ten years in NSW for a minor traffic offense and I think this is reasonable considering they will only do possibly 200,000 kilometres and we do that each year.

The judge dismissed the offence with the prosecutor, (the Police did not attend) saying, for a professional driver that is not a good record, that is an exceptional record. I am not perfect and have never claimed to be, but I can hardly ask others to do the right thing if I don’t. On the other side, I have to get the job done and will be seen as a goody two shoes if I do it perfectly and never make a mistake. It can be a balancing act, having had others say in the past, “You are on their side”, the authorities, because I don’t call them all the names under the sun in my column and comments.

My response was that if I do, (like others) will they, the authorities be likely to fix a bit of road or listen to me, when I want a rest area built or improved? Not likely. The driver who had made the initial comment, then said, “Oh, I had not thought of that or seen it that way”. Yes we all want things done, but we have to ask the right way and abusing people will never get them to listen to your needs and requests.

This list formed part of my submission to the first NTC NHVL paper and so I will follow through with the effort. It cost me $700 in lost wages, time and fuel to travel to Gilgandra and now I find I could have asked for costs when it was dismissed. Why can we not have a central place to get fair justice when we are supposed to have a national license and national heavy vehicle laws and regulator?

When the NHVR was first formed, I asked this question at one meeting, to be told, we will look at that. At the next meeting when I asked again, I was told it was too hard. If murderers can get a video trial, why can’t we get a cheap and reasonable way to defend ourselves against a police or authority ticket issued in a state well away from home, with them knowing it will cost us more to defend that the ticket itself? Is that fair justice, NO. Will it change? Not unless we demand a fair go. Will you do something to see this change? Then write, email or ring the NTC and contribute to the Fatigue review.

I currently hope to attend the one and only NTC meeting in Sydney next week for the fatigue review and will be putting this forward yet again. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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