Black seeks greater owner-driver presence on ATA council

ATA owner-driver representative wants a significant shake-up of the group's ranks to give one-man trucking outfits a greater say

Black seeks greater owner-driver presence on ATA council
Black seeks greater owner-driver presence on ATA council
By Brad Gardner | August 2, 2013

The Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) owner-driver representative is seeking a significant shake-up of the group’s ranks to give one-man trucking outfits a greater say.

Frank Black says the structure of the ATA’s general council, which guides the group’s policies, should be expanded to include an owner-driver representative from each Australian jurisdiction or sector as opposed to just having one owner-driver representative for the entire industry.

But Black believes the proposal will likely be dead on arrival because he claims the ATA is more focused on looking after the industry’s big players.

"They could have an owner-driver representative from every state or a representative from different sectors of the industry. That would probably make more sense to me," Black says.

"I have thought about putting it forward as a proposal, haven’t done so as yet. But I have talked about it with a couple of other council members and suggested [it]...They didn’t like my chances of it getting up."

Black says a majority of truck drivers believe "the ATA’s a big boys club and that’s all there is to it". He says he raises drivers’ concerns at council meetings but can do little else.

"Apart from that I don’t like my chances of changing anything actually within the ATA. They’ve got their select group that’s steering it," he says.

"You won’t really have any show at changing it."

The council’s membership includes a small fleet advocate, along with representatives from state and territory trucking associations, Linfox, K&S, Boral and Australia Post.

ATA National Manager of Government Relations and Communications Bill McKinley rejected Black’s assertion the group only looks after the larger end of town, pointing to the association’s recent victory in gaining a tax exemption for air-conditioning fuel used in sleeper cabs as proof.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) ruled in May that trucking operators could claim back all of the tax used on the fuel.

"One of the ATA’s victories was securing a tax exemption for sleeper cab air-conditioners, which will benefit owner-drivers specifically. They are people who are mainly getting the greatest benefit of it," McKinley says.

"I also make the point that Mr Black is the owner-driver representative on the ATA council. If he feels that owner-drivers are not effectively represented on ATA council he should perhaps review what he does."

McKinley says Black is free to move a motion at the next council meeting on September 25 to restructure the council’s membership to include more owner-driver representatives.

"I can certainly say that this proposal has never been formally raised at a council meeting. Again, it is in Mr Black’s power to have this put on the agenda," McKinley says.

The Queensland-based Black is also highly critical of the ATA over its decision not to adopt a position on the union-led safe rates campaign, which led to the formation of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

He is adamant the ATA needs to support the campaign and says that doing so will improve its standing in the eyes of drivers and owner-drivers.

"I think that they would be seen in a much better light, that they actually do care about people on the road and what’s happening to them and not up there just looking after the big boys and the big companies," Black says.

"At the end of the day it’s in regards to safety and improving safety on our roads. So as far as I’m concerned they should be supporting a campaign like this."

Black argued his case at a previous council meeting, but the ATA voted against involving itself on the basis safe rates pitted employees against employers.

McKinley says the council felt that adopting a position on safe rates would go against the ATA’s constitution, which stipulates the ATA’s role is to unite and represent all of the trucking industry.

"Our role is to unite the industry and represent all parts of it, not to take up an argument on the part of one part of the industry against the other," McKinley says.

He has also refuted Black’s accusation that the recent ATA convention catered to an exclusive group because it was held on Hamilton Island.

Black claims the location of the convention put it out reach of many owner-drivers because they could not afford to attend.

"I’m an owner-driver. I think it was a silly place to have it. They should have had it where it was more accessible to owner-drivers," Black, who did not attend the event, says.

"To me, it wasn’t a venue that made it accessible to everybody else. I think it’s sending more a message that it’s more for the exclusive people that can afford it and not to try and involve everyone in the industry."

Black says a lot of owner-drivers he spoke to labelled the ATA’s choice of location as "ludicrous", but McKinley says the feedback the ATA received at the conclusion of the sold-out event was "outstandingly positive".

"We had a number of owner-drivers at the event and I disagree utterly with the assertion that holding the event on Hamilton Island made it exclusive," he says.

McKinley says airfares to the island were competitively priced and that the registration fee to attend the convention was less than half of that in previous years. Furthermore, he says the ATA secured a special accommodation deal for delegates.

"The number of people we had attending confirms the success of our strategy. The fact is we had more trucking operators at Hamilton Island than at any ATA convention since 2006," he says.

"It really was a value-packed proposition."

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