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Pedestrian Council of Australia

Safety – Amenity – Access – Health

 

Media Release

Tuesday 14 June 2005

TRUCK-DRIVER FATIGUE
PENALTIES FARCICAL


Missing Link in the New Chain of Responsibility Law: the Drivers

Stiff Penalties, Including High Demerit Points, Must Apply to All Log-Book Offences

 

Following today’s news of the trucking industry’s “Chain of Responsibility Law”, the Chairman of the PCA, Harold Scruby responded: “We welcome the new Chain of Responsibility legislation, however, the chain has a missing link.  It must include the person behind the wheel.  Currently, a truck driver can drive from Perth to Sydney without a minute’s sleep, either without a log-book or falsifying all the details and not get one Demerit Point.  And the penalty is a farcical $164.   There is simply no realistic deterrent.  The rewards far outweigh the risks.

 

“We have been calling on the NSW Government to include Demerit Points for these offences for years.  On 20 April this year, we wrote to Mr Michael Costa, NSW Roads Minister about this vital Road Safety initiative (copy attached).  To date, we’ve received neither acknowledgement, nor reply” Mr Scruby said.

 

“On 17 March 2003, the NRMA wrote to the RTA in response to their Review of Fines and Demerit Points, recommending: ‘Trucks log books offences: Serious offence given fatigue issues in heavy vehicle industry: $225 and  3 (demerit) points.’

 

“Following an extensive inquiry into the Penalties and Demerit Points System, the NRMA published its position in March 2003:  ‘The demerit point scheme needs to be reviewed to ensure it is fair, consistent and focused on safety.  All safety-related offences should incur demerit points.   Penalties should be reviewed to ensure that offences that are more likely to endanger the community carry higher penalties.’

 

“Presently, in NSW, the scheme is anything but fair, consistent and focussed on safety.  Over the previous holiday weekend, there were 6 Demerit Points for not fastening a  seat-belt and another 6 DPs for travelling at 61 kmh in a 60 kmh zone.  But there are also 2 Demerit Points for playing loud music while driving and 3 DPs for driving in a Bus Lane, where nobody’s safety is compromised.”  Mr Scruby said.

 

“At the National Transport Commission & Australian Trucking Association Seminar of 1 March 2004, entitled “To Combat Speeding – Heavy Trucks”, the Communiqué recommended:  ‘There needs to be a more uniform national approach to speed management by aligning offences, tolerances and other deterrence measures such as demerit points.’

 

“Victoria Police collision investigation unit found that being tired is similar to being drunk, often with the same tragic outcome.  In Victoria, there are 10 Demerit Points (automatic) for low range drink-driving, yet none for truck drivers who falsify their log-books.

 

Mr Scruby added:  “There is a missing link in this new Chain of Responsibility law.  It includes extremely high monetary penalties for companies and even jail for employers and directors who pressure truck drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines, yet it ignores the person who is ultimately responsible; the driver.  The evidence proves that fatigue is as lethal as drink-driving.  If the potential for harm is about the same, it follows that the penalties for falsification or not keeping a true and accurate log-book should be the same or similar to low-range drink-driving.  We call on all State and Territory governments to urgently implement these changes.  At a minimum, the penalties should include a $500 fine and 6 Demerit Points, or even loss of licence.” Mr Scruby said.

 

Harold Scruby - Chairman/CEO – Pedestrian Council of Australia - Tel: (02) 9968-4555   (0418) 110-011

Email: scruby@walk.com.au  Internet:  www.walk.com.au

_______________________________________________________________________________________


-----Original Message-----

From: PCA [mailto:walking@walk.com.au]

Sent: Wednesday, 20 April 2005 12:10 PM

To: Michael Costa MP

Subject: URGENT: Penalties for truck drivers falsifying log books

Importance: High

 

The Hon Michael Costa MP

Minister for Roads

Level 36

GMT - Farrer Place

SYDNEY NSW  2000

 

 

Cc: The Hon Bob Carr - Premier of NSW

The Hon John Brogden - Leader of the Opposition

The Hon Carl Scully Minister for Police

The Hon Andrew Stoner - Shadow Minister for Roads

Mr Paul Gibson - Chairman STAYSAFE

Mr Tony Stuart - CEO NRMA Mr Paul Forward - CE - RTA

Commander John Hartley - NSW Police

Dr Soames Job - RTA - GM Road Safety

 

 

Dear Michael

 

You and I were invited to appear on the 60 Minutes "Heavy Vehicle" seminar/debate at the Entertainment Centre yesterday.

 

I made the point that a truck driver could drive from Perth to Sydney, without taking a minute's sleep and yet there were no Demerit Points for falsifying log-books. I asked why the penalties were so paltry (approx $164) and why there were no DPs for this offence.   I compared that with not wearing a seat-belt, which over the holiday period attracts 6 Demerit Points.  My suggestion was not viewed kindly by the inordinate number of truck-drivers in the audience.

 

Later on in the debate, you seemed to only dismiss the idea of Demerit Points for this offence.

 

May I give you some history on this issue, prior to your taking on the Ministry for Roads.

 

I was invited by your predecessor, the Hon Carl Scully, to sit on the RTA's Demerit Point and Penalty Task Force.  We have been campaigning for an overhaul to the entire system for over 8 years.

 

http://www.walk.com.au/pedestriancouncil/page.asp?PageID=282&SiteID=1

 

The RTA's stated objective was to make all offences consistent and fair.

 

Following years of lobbying by the PCA, the NRMA conducted a widespread study into Demerit Points and in March 2003, they published their position (attached):

 

(QUOTE): "The Demerit Points Scheme needs to be reviewed to ensure it is fair, consistent and focused on safety. All safety-related offences should incur dement points. Penalties should he reviewed to ensure that offences that are more likely to endanger the community carry higher penalties."

 

The committee employed this over-riding philosophy in all its deliberations.

 

For nearly a year, a committee comprising senior members from NSW Police, NRMA, RTA, PCA, etc considered every offence in the book.  We made our recommendations which were then advertised widely and put out for public comment.  They then went to the Ministerial Road Safety Task Force and finally to the Minister.  He announced they would become law on 1 March 2005 late last year.  The only objection from the Opposition was that Mr Brogden did not agree with Demerit Points for Double Parking and stopping in Bus Zones.  Mr Scully agreed to those concessions.

 

When you became Minister for Roads, you put all these changes on hold.  You made an immediate announcement that low-range speeding fines would go down, but Demerit Points for this offence would increase to 3 Demerit Points.  You also announced that there would be 3 Demerit Points for hogging the outside lane.  Our committee had already recommended 2 DPs for this offence.

 

Several years ago, you announced on television that there would be 2 Demerit Points for playing loud music.  And there are currently 3 DPs for being in a Bus Lane.  In both cases there is little if any potential for harm.

 

So, back to truck drivers and the offence of falsifying log-books.

 

Fatigue is recognised, without question, as one of the three biggest killers on our roads.  It's considered as dangerous as low-range drink-driving.  When it comes to truck drivers, the potential for harm is many, many times worse, because of the hours on the road and the mass of their vehicles.  At the seminar yesterday, some drivers were stating that up to 90% were on drugs to stay awake.  Many agreed that if you didn't take drugs you couldn't do the job.  Most agreed that they falsified their log books.

 

Consistently and persistently throughout the Demerit Point Task Force meetings, I asked that there be DPs for this offence.  I was told, each time, that this offence was not to be considered by our Committee ... "it would be looked at later."  I even asked for my objections to be minuted.

 

I have personally campaigned for changes to this offence.  We have put out Media Releases (March 2003 following the Harker debacle) and written letters to the Editor.  It's hardly a case that the authorities are unaware of the problem.

 

http://www.walk.com.au/pedestriancouncil/page.asp?PageID=519&SiteID=1

 

http://www.walk.com.au/pedestriancouncil/page.asp?PageID=565&SiteID=1

 

There is no doubt that the trucking companies have to share some of the blame for allowing the industry to get to this utterly disgraceful and shameful state.

 

But in the end, it's the person behind the wheel who is in control.

 

The CE of the RTA, Mr Paul Forward was quoted in the SMH only recently as saying how important Demerit Points were to Road Safety.

 

If truck-drivers knew that they would receive 6 Demerit Points for falsifying their log-books and if they were caught twice in 3 years, they would lose their licences, the industry would change dramatically and much of the carnage, drug taking and risk taking would be avoided.

 

So would you please inform us if and when you intend including Demerit Points for this falsifying a log-book (not keeping proper records) and will it be in the revised DP package to come into force on 1 July 2005.  Would you also advise if you intend to significantly increase the penalties for this offence from the current and utterly anomalous $164 (less than for parking in a No Stopping zone). 

 

 

Regards

 

Harold