Contractor

Logbook rules causing financial headaches for drivers

According to police records obtained by DT Driver Training, 1935 drivers received a logbook fine from police in 2017, not including over 320 more that had to attend court and would have received a fine of up to $2000 per offence, plus at least a one-month licence suspension.

If a driver is pulled over by police and their logbook isn’t in order, the minimum penalty is $150 and 10 demerit points; if they fail to produce a current logbook on demand, as 439 drivers did, it’s $500 and 35 demerit points.

Even drivers using electronic logbooks are not immune to fines as it’s still possible to breach the laws either deliberately or accidentally.

Logbook and work time rules are there for good reason: They help prevent driver fatigue, which is one of the main causes of accidents, and it makes a level playing field for all operators.

Both employers and drivers must understand their obligations, but NZTA’s information is relatively basic and not easy for drivers to digest or employers to digest.

“Drivers going through a class 2 licence must learn about logbooks,” says Darren Cottingham of DT Driver Training.

“But that doesn’t mean to say that they don’t forget how to fill them out once they’ve had their licence a while, especially if they’ve had times where they haven’t needed to keep a logbook.”

New Zealand companies also employ many drivers from overseas who can use their home country’s licence for up to 12 months before transitioning to a New Zealand licence.

In this case, logbook training must be supplied by the employer or taken proactively by the driver.

Options to keep up-to-speed with the requirements are an online logbook course, reading NZTA’s booklet, studying the legislation itself or going to an external training centre.

The basic requirements for a driver under the work-time rules are that they must:

  • Take a break of at least 30 minutes after working a maximum of 5.5 hours
  • Take a break of at least 10 hours after working a maximum of 13 hours in any 24-hour period
  • Take a break of at least 24 hours after working a maximum of 70 hours
  • Give the yellow ‘employer’ copy to the employer within 14 days
  • Maintain only one clear, legible logbook
  • Retain the logbook for at least 12 months after the date of the last entry

Employers are responsible for understanding which of their drivers are subject to work-time rules and what constitutes work, retaining the required records such as fuel and accommodation receipts, and for monitoring driver safety (a requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 as a vehicle is defined as a place of work).

Many contractors won’t need to keep a logbook if they work within a 50 kilometre radius of their base, but ignorance is no defence.

Some logbook offences, such as omissions, are dealt with by police, but some are summonable offences which are prosecuted in court. The minimum one-month suspension handed out with summonable offences can apply to all licence classes and means that that driver can’t drive for their employer.

The employer could also be liable for a fine of up to $25000, depending on the circumstances.

Breaching work time and rest time rules was the most common reason for a court summons. 76 drivers failed to take their 10-hour break, 55 exceeded 13 hours’ work in a day without a valid work-time variation and 86 drivers exceeded more than 5.5 hours’ continuous work without taking a 30-minute break.

The total fines, not including court-imposed fines was just shy of $500,000 in 2017. That’s just over $250 per driver.

“The price of an online logbook course is much cheaper than the cost of them being unable to drive for a month, let alone taking into consideration the fines,” says Cottingham.

“Given the options available, there’s no excuse for drivers and employers to be pouring money into government coffers for basic mistakes.”

 

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