Shortfalls at the waterfront put pressure on truck drivers

By: Brad Gardner

Union says lack of appropriate systems and procedures is undermining work conditions in the port and wharf sector.

Shortfalls at the waterfront put pressure on truck drivers
Not good enough: The TWU claims serious deficiencies within the port supply chain are letting drivers down.


Insufficient systems and procedures within the port supply chain are being blamed for undermining the work conditions of truck drivers hauling freight to and from the waterfront.

The Transport Workers Union’s (TWU) submission to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT) inquiry into practices at Australia’s five largest ports suggests all parties in the chain need to develop better systems to ensure drivers are paid and treated accordingly.

The TWU claims some drivers and contractors are not being paid their entitlements, there is a substandard approach to safe work practices, shortfalls with documentation and unrealistic delivery expectations.

"The lack of appropriate systems strongly indicates deficiencies in the interaction between supply chain participants in this sector," its submission states.

"Such deficiencies not only leads to danger for workers and the general road using public with whom they interact every day but is also a barrier to efficiencies in such a critical sector of the Australian economy."

According to the submission, remuneration practices such as trip rates fail to compensate drivers for the time spent waiting to load or unload freight.

It goes on to say there are contractors not receiving a fuel levy, parties not abiding by payment time requirements and non-payment of superannuation.

The submission says there are reports of transport companies having no management system in place for vehicle repair and maintenance, leading to serious safety concerns.

"Drivers report being forced to complete work in vehicles that require important repairs including brake replacement, suspension issues and tyre replacement," the TWU claims.

"This failure to properly maintain and ensure vehicle safety requirements are addressed puts workers and the broader community at risk of accident that might lead to injury or death."

Furthermore, the TWU says drivers are not receiving training in basic safety measures, are unaware of what safe operating procedures must be followed and do not know if there are any risk assessments that exist in relation to the work they do.

It says workers should be properly consulted and given appropriate training on fatigue management, workplace health and safety, manual handling and safe loading and unloading requirements.

It adds that importers and exporters are setting unrealistic and unsafe delivery schedules.

"Exacerbating these concerns are failures on behalf of those participants in the supply chain to provide complete documentation to wharf and port workers in a timely fashion," the union says.

It also accuses ports of not providing sufficient parking bays within their precincts, inadequate or non-existent bathroom facilities and a lack of catering facilities.

The TWU says it plans to provide evidence and further submissions during the RSRT’s inquiry to identify key remuneration and safety issues affecting drivers in the ports sector.

The RSRT in February announced an inquiry into the practices of the ports of Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney.

The findings will be used to help the tribunal decide if it should intervene in the running of the ports or an individual port through the introduction of a road safety remuneration order (RSRO).

An RSRO may stipulate terms and conditions parties must meet.

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