It seems that the state government has finally decided that it really does need to focus on driver fatigue in the trucking industry – and not before time too.
For too long this country has survived by imposing impossible workloads on the drivers of long-distance trucks while governments have turned a blind-eye to the companies who insist that their drivers continually break the law.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Paul Lucas has told the Australian Trucking Association’s annual convention that the State Government had turned the spotlight on rogue transport companies who forced drivers to cut corners and break the law.
The Minister said the State Government would make no apology for taking a tough stand on the issue.
“We already pursue all breaches of driving hours and other chain of responsibility offences with the full force of the law and we will continue to do so,” Mr Lucas said.
Since the introduction of chain of responsibility legislation in 1998, Queensland Transport has led the field with 324 successful prosecutions for driving hours offences.
“Queensland was the first state to do so and we will stay at the forefront to make sure our roads are safer for everyone.
“I want to send out a loud message that these rogues of industry who push their drivers to work excessive hours will not be tolerated,” Mr Lucas said.
The Minister said that anyone who played a role in road transport – from consignors such as supermarkets, through to drivers and customers – would be held accountable for their actions.
“The majority of drivers do the right thing. They behave responsibly, and I want those drivers who feel pressured to breach driving hours regulations, or who know of companies that are doing the wrong thing to come forward,” Mr Lucas said.
Crashes involving heavy vehicles on Queensland roads in 2005 resulted in 49 deaths, almost 15% of all fatalities.
“This does not mean that in all cases heavy vehicles were at fault, but we’re serious about tackling the issue and want to look at workable ways to turn these statistics around.
“I want to introduce even tougher penalties to target unsafe heavy vehicle drivers and operators.”
“I have reports of rogue transport companies paying the fines of drivers involved in logbook offences and that means the driver is under no penalty for what is a significant safety issue.
“I make no apology in ensuring our chain of responsibility legislation targets the operators rather than the drivers and the truckies.
“But drivers must also bear responsibility and introducing demerit points for logbook offences is worth a very serious look.
“This is only a small minority of the industry who put safety at risk and undercut the earnings of decent truckies and trucking companies.
There are around 75,000 trucks registered in Queensland. There are on average around 45 log book offences for breaches of driving hours each year in Queensland.
“Queensland is at the forefront of heavy vehicle reforms being developed at a national level by the National Transport Commission. Demerit points will be considered as part of this reform process.
“However, with a spate of crashes involving heavy vehicles, particularly on major highways, I will be introducing demerit points for heavy vehicle log book offences in Queensland. Ideally I’d like other states to follow suit,” Mr Lucas said.
“This will be part of the road safety package arising from the recent Queensland Road Safety Summit,” Mr Lucas said.
Perhaps he means what he says; only time will tell but it could be more hot air blowing out of an exhaust pipe.