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Road Transport law change: Electronic Work Diaries on the horizon and more…

May 28, 2015

Are the traditional pen-and-paper work diaries for heavy vehicle drivers going to go the way of the dodo?

It hasn’t looked like it’s about to happen at any time over the past few years. A NSW pilot of electronic work diaries (EWDs) concluded in 2013, and it found that electronic systems of logging work and rest time could save lives and reduce road trauma across Australia.

It also let drivers and operators comply more easily and efficiently with the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) fatigue rules, and identify compliance breaches faster.

But as of May 2015, a EWD specification is yet to be finalised in Australia, and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) does not yet approve any EWDs.

But in the background, developments have been underway. And now, there are some small by significant changes to the law which will pave the way for the use of EWDs across Australian transport businesses.

What’s changing?

The Queensland government has introduced the Heavy Vehicle National Law Amendment Bill into parliament.

Queensland is the host jurisdiction for the HVNL – they have to pass changes to the law (including any of its chain of responsibility provisions) before they can be applied in other participating States and Territories.

The bill opens the door for the NHVR to start approving new electronic work diary systems and devices, enabling the effective future implementation of an approval and monitoring regime for EWDs.

It amends the way in which applications for EWD systems will be recorded and accepted, and creates new notification requirements where a EWD is lost, damaged, or tampered with – as well as penalties if record-keepers fail to do so.

It also recognises the realities of having a EWD that counts time to the minute. Under the changes, records of small excess driving time breaches (of eight minutes or less) will not be treated as an offence.

Importantly, it also places limits on how the data from a EWD will be used, by inserting a definition of “electronic work diary unauthorised use”. This is to assure drivers and operators that EWD information may only be used in the exercise of driver fatigue compliance functions.

How are you affected?

These changes to the law prepare the groundwork for businesses to adopt EWDs as a voluntary alternative to paper-based diaries.

The emphasis is on ‘voluntary’ –it’s not time to panic if you’re a driver, operator or employer who is managing your fatigue compliance the old-fashioned way.

But remember, the EWD system offers a range of assurances and efficiencies – and some of these amendments go a long way to avoiding some of the loopholes and privacy concerns electronic systems presented before.

Beyond EWDs, there is quite a bit more to the new bill – keep an eye on CoR Bulletin (or better yet, the CoR Adviser) in coming months to learn about what it means for your business.

Until next time,
The CoR Adviser Team