Rail union slams plans to change driving hours
Australia’s rail transport union is warning proposed changes to train drivers’ working hours are risky and fly in the face of the latest research on fatigue and safety.
The draft proposal by the National Transport Commission (NTC) recommends ditching a 12-hour cap on working hours and letting rail companies set limits on shift lengths and rest breaks.
State and federal transport ministers are just weeks away from getting together to look at fatigue and safety laws for the nation’s rail network.
The commission recommends fatigue standards for train drivers in New South Wales be relaxed, for the sake of flexibility and to cut the burden and cost of regulation.
But that plan has locomotive drivers like Dave Mathie worried.
“We have a system in New South Wales that is world’s best practice and I don’t understand why the NTC would want to go away from that,” he said.
“I would have thought that we would all try to try and keep everybody safe and that can’t be done if people are being allowed to work or companies are being allowed to roster people longer than 12 hours.”
The national secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union, Bob Nanva, says uniform legislation should raise standards across Australia rather than “reducing them to the lowest common denominator”.
“In New South Wales there are some of the toughest rail safety regulations in the world and that is a product of several recent tragedies – including the Waterfall and Glenbrook rail tragedies – and as a result of the McInerny Inquiry which recommended tough fatigue standards,” he said.
He says the NTC must look at the latest research.
“The NTC has effectively concluded that there is little evidence to support differing fatigue-related outcomes if maximum shift lengths and minimum rest breaks are put into legislation,” he said.
“That analysis is tenuous. It is based on assumption rather than evidence. We hope that they will take heed of some of the recommendations in this expert report.”
That research has been done by Dr Shantha Rajaratnam a fatigue and safety expert based at Monash University.
“What we can see is even after eight hours of exposure to a particular task during a shift for example, the risk of accident or an injury substantially increases,” he said.
“A shift longer than 12 hours would not provide adequate opportunity for restorative sleep before another shift starts.”
Mr Nanva fears the international experience and the lessons learned from Australian rail disasters will be lost.
“To abolish maximum shift lengths, to abolish minimum rest breaks for rail workers is to forget everything that we have learnt from some of those tragedies,” he said.
Topics:rail, accidents, rail-transport, industry, occupational-health-and-safety, business-economics-and-finance, unions, sydney-2000, nsw, australia, glenbrook-2773, waterfall-2233