BusNSW respond to exclusive NTC letter

By: Chris Smith

BusNSW has responded to a "letter" yet to be published by ABC Magazine from the National Transport Commission criticising the

BusNSW has responded to a "letter" yet to be published by ABC Magazine from the National Transport Commission criticising the Association for its views on fatigue management reforms.

Steve Lynch, BusNSW Manager, Policy, Legislation and Training, says the Association believe the new fatigue proposal introduced by the NTC treats buses like trucks.

"The hours don’t suit the industry and the industry, rather than individual operators, are having to opt out of Standard Hours in favour of prescriptive regulatory regimes like Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) and Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM)," he says.

"This industry (certainly in NSW) has very strict fatigue record keeping arrangements in place. BFM and AFM duplicate these requirements.

"Up to this point the industry had one set of hours which operators and drivers understood and applied. As a result the industry’s safety record is exemplary. NTC changes all this to a choice of systems which have everyone confused."

Lynch says the BCA made extensive representations about the shortcomings of the proposed system, primarily to the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), which was responsible for implementing the NTC proposal in NSW.

"These were ignored throughout in the desire to have a ‘one size fits all system’," he says.

"Since its introduction in NSW, the NTC system has caused widespread problems causing the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) to exempt some requirements and to introduce a lengthy phase-in for others."

BusNSW says the so-called ‘bus specific’ fatigue option is ill-suited to the industry.

"This requires six nights off in seven – how’s that going to help the nightride/rail replacement buses?" Lynch questions.

He says the BusNSW is not alone in its opposition to the laws.

"Both State Transit (NSW Government buses) and the Ministry of Transport in NSW are also concerned with the changes – mainly due to the extensive roster changes, increased costs and possible industrial implications created by the new laws," he says.

"The NTC proposal allows a minimum of 30 minutes off in eight hours. The current system requires 30 minutes off in 5.5 hours.

"We fail to see how this will improve fatigue."

Lynch goes on to suggest national uniformity is a sham. He says the ACT and WA have completely opted out of the NTC scheme and explains Queensland and Tasmania have introduced their own variations to the package.

"Queensland requires work diaries only over 200km of driving, and Tassie requires it in all cases," says Lynch.

"Other states, including South Australia, have introduced lengthy implementation periods.

"While Victoria has adopted the package, it has caused problems for the bus industry there - for example, as I understand it, the industry has had to apply for BFM.

"What’s the point of a bus specific package when the majority of the industry has to opt out of the system in favour of a special dispensation - that is, BFM?" asks Lynch.

Lynch responds to a statement made by NTC CEO Nick Dimopoulos in the exclusive letter to ABC Magazine: "If the industry needs a new set of regulations that reflect the industry’s operational requirements, they can write it themselves. It’s called Advanced Fatigue Management."

"Wouldn’t it be better to actually have a pattern of hours that works for buses rather than the industry having to 'opt out' of the Standard Hours in favour of AFM or (as in Victoria) BFM?" he asks.

More in the December issue of ABC Magazine. Email the Editor to have your say.

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