Electronic work diaries get parliamentary committee go ahead

Amendment Bill will allow implementation of electronic diaries and new penalties.


Legislative amendments to pave the way for the use of electronic work diaries (EWDs) and penalties for EWD breaches are a step closer to being passed.

Queensland’s Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee has recommended the state’s politicians support a series of amendments to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) to allow EWDs to be implemented.

The HVNL Amendment Bill seeks to amend the HVNL to include provisions covering EWDs, introduce new penalties and make minor technical adjustments to the law.

The Bill was introduced in Queensland’s parliament in May and sent to the committee to examine.

The HVNL applies throughout Australia except in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Any amendments to the law must pass Queensland’s parliament before other jurisdictions that recognise the HVNL make the same changes.

“The committee recommends the Heavy Vehicle National Law Amendment Bill 2015 be passed,” the report from the committee states.

Once passed, the Bill will allow the trucking industry to use EWDs as a voluntary alternative to paper-based work diaries to record compliance with fatigue management obligations.

The Bill includes provisions to excuse fatigue management breaches of eight minutes or less for truck drivers using EWDs and for the diaries to count time in one minute intervals as opposed to 15 minutes, which is the case for paper diaries. The amendments are designed to recognise the accuracy of EWDs.

“EWDs will remove all the manual requirements by automatically recording a driver’s work and rest times and providing electronic reports to the record keeper,” the committee’s report says.

The eight minute tolerance will apply to those working under standard hours (12-hour workdays) and basic fatigue management (14-hour workdays).

Fatigue management experts agreed the tolerance was unlikely to cause a serious fatigue risk. The tolerance does, however, include a countermeasure to ensure it is not exploited.

“The excess time worked must be offset by the driver in the longer term to meet the seven day and 14 day work periods which ensures there is no incentive to use the excess period of eight minutes as additional time that the driver is entitled to work,” the committee says.

While the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) supports EWDs, it is concerned the tolerance is only applied to work time and not rest. It says the measure will still lead to drivers recording a higher number of minor risk breaches than users of paper-based diaries and will likely hamper EWD take-up rates.

The tolerance level is due to be reviewed two years after it is implemented.

A pilot study of EWDs concluded trucking operators would need to pay $1,200 for an EWD and $500 to fit it and then $20 per month per unit.

The introduction of EWDs will coincide with new penalties. These relate to record keeping, diary maintenance and protection of data, with fines ranging from $1,500 up to $20,000 for breaches.

Unathorised disclosure of EWD information can lead to a fine of $20,000, which the National Transport Commission (NTC) says brings the HVNL in line with unauthorised disclosure penalties for other parties.

“Currently there is already an offence in the Heavy Vehicle National Law for an official to misuse protected information,” the NTC says.

“If I as a public servant have some information about you as a truck driver and I disclose that inappropriately, I could incur a penalty of $20,000. It is imposing a similar level of penalty on other organisations or individuals who have a regulatory function under the national law.”

There are also penalties for people caught tampering with a plate or label affixed to a heavy vehicle ($3,000), and ensuring correct declarations have been provided when transporting freight containers ($6,000).

The proposed changes to the HVNL are part of an ongoing maintenance program put in place when the HVNL was first enacted.

State and territory agencies and industry representatives, including Toll, the ATA and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) are part of a maintenance group tasked with examining the HVNL and whether amendments need to be made to it.


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