Electronic devices offer the potential to record and use information in ways not possible within the current paper-based system. For example, these devices can assist drivers to comply with the law and plan their work and rest times. This information can also be fed back to operators to assist them in responding proactively to on-road events (such as loading delays) by changing trip schedules, roster and planned rest breaks. The current paper-based system is a key barrier to improving the voluntary uptake of electronic systems and harnessing their potential to manage fatigue and speed risks, as recommended by the draft National In-vehicle Telematics Strategy: The Road Freight Sector (NTC 2010a). Many operators are operating electronic systems for commercial purposes and retaining the paper-based work diary for regulatory requirements. Being able to combine these instruments into a single system can significantly reduce unnecessary red tape – an important policy goal for all governments. National fatigue laws already allow for the use of an electronic work diary as an alternative to the written work diary, and have established a process for approval. However, the legal requirements do not specify the level of performance the electronic devices need to meet. For example, when using a paper-based diary the driver’s signature is prescribed as the form of authentication, but there are no specifications for authenticating an electronic record. Regulators have also been reluctant to consider applications for using electronic work diaries without further guidance on how an assessment should be undertaken. Some regulators would like an electronic work diary to eliminate the shortcomings of the paperbased diary, and therefore improve road safety compliance. Industry believe a higher standard of record keeping would simply result in the continued use of written work diaries. Regulators and some industry stakeholders argue that a robust performance specification for in-vehicle telematics devices is needed to monitor persistent speed and fatigue offenders. Courts could then apply these requirements through a supervisory intervention order1 if additional guidance material is developed. This draft policy paper argues that electronic work diaries can be made available to industry by finalsing the approval process, developing guidance material and making some minor legislative changes. The report also recommends an operational pilot of electronic work diaries to test the institutional and operational environment described within the guidance material.
Dr Jeff Potter
National Transport Commission