TRUCK drivers transporting cattle from drought-stricken areas should be given greater flexibility around their driving hours.
That’s the view of Katter’s Australian Party State Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter, who is pushing for temporary amendments to Queensland’s driver fatigue management laws.
He said current limitations on livestock transporters driving hours exposed often poor quality stock under needless harm and suffering.
Mr Katter said the push was to ensure animal welfare standards were being met during harsh drought conditions.
He said he would ask the Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey and the Minister for Agriculture Mark Furner, to raise the matter with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).
“I will be requesting that the ministers consider allowing truck drivers who can prove they are transporting stock from a drought-declared area to access a two hour “grace period” on top of the current hourly limitations set by the NHVR,” Mr Katter said.
He said currently, truck drivers were required to pull over at least every five and a half hours, while weak stock suffered, and in some cases perished, in the hot sun.
“We have drivers being hit with huge fines worth thousands of dollars for breaches of driver fatigue management laws when all they are trying to do is look after stressed animals,” Mr Katter said.
“If we can make some temporary and careful changes to avoid this, then that’s what we need to do.”
Mr Katter said truckies transporting livestock faced a harder task than regular freight drivers, as they must be mindful they are complying with animal welfare laws.
He said some more flexibility was desperately needed as livestock transport tasks could often be unpredictable and complex.
While truckies can obtain special permits under various national schemes, Mr Katter said the schemes themselves are also very restrictive in terms and when drivers can and cannot drive.
Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland president Ian Wild said while he welcomed any measures to improve the industry, he believed fatigue management was fairly well managed.
Mr Wild said measures were already in place that allowed drivers to extend their fatigue management accreditation.
He said drivers with basic accreditation could driver for 14 hours a day, in two intervals of six hours with a 15 minute break. This is up from the standard 12 hour days, with five hours and 15 minutes driving before a mandotary 15 minute break.
“But with all the levels, you still can’t exceed the maximum numbres of hours working during the week, so if you do a longer driving time you eventually have to pay that back having more rest hours,” Mr Wild said.
“There are already mesaures there and those that are coming into it now probably missed the boat.
“Most of the drought stock has been moved by now, it has been going so long.”
Mr Katter said he’d been contacted by a number of people from the cattle industry about this issue, and that some common sense needed to be injected.
This could include consolidating Australia’s three levels of driver fatigue management – currently Standard, Basic and Advanced – into one and allowing drivers more control over when they take their rest breaks.
“Many drivers feel like they are being set up in a system of entrapment – they are being forced to drive when they are tired and sleep when they’re not by the current system,” he said.
“Really we need an entire review of the system but at the moment, some flexibility for those carting from drought-declared zones would help for now.”