OPINION: A call for action

By: John Beer


If you’re not vocal about what you believe the industry needs, the ‘experts’ will decide it for you

OPINION: A call for action
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Well, it’s been a couple of months since Labor smashed the Liberals in the Victorian election. The writing is on the wall – and we are all wondering what to expect later this year in the national arena. I think we all can agree that the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) will be back in some form; I think that’s a real safe bet.

But let’s be smarter and much better informed this time. I believe we should be talking to the main players in the political parties and especially Labor to try and ensure things get done right. That also includes people like Senator Sterle who has been pretty vocal about road transport and has some support from industry. And controversially, I really think we need some good conversations with the Transport Workers Union and Michael Kaine.

Whether we like it or not, I think the power brokers will be urging change to transport laws and regulation as soon as they gain office. As owner-drivers, we all have to get our act together and be united when we talk to those with the power to make change. If we don’t we will most likely see a repeat of 2016 or worse. We also need to be allowed to have strong conversations and disagreements but the welfare and economic survival of owner drivers needs to be the priority. Not political point scoring, not vote buying, not back room or party deals.

It’s been reported that Senator Sterle and Michael Kaine spoke at the last Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Council meeting and I acknowledge that at least they have made the first move to start a conversation. I hope that this is a genuine attempt to work with transport operators. But I think it is up to all of us, you and me; to try and contribute and not just sit back and hope for the best. We can’t just let associations and paid representatives do our talking for us.

Some associations can seem to fail to make a difference, and when you think about it, even if someone is paid many thousands to represent you, they still don’t have that complete investment in the outcome of their work.

If an operator is in the room, they do have the ultimate interest in the industry. If transport falls over, they lose their business and maybe their home and more. I am adamant that drivers, operators and industry must go to meetings with executive directors and paid representatives.

When we meet ministers or policy makers or enforcement or regulators, who can actually tell them the real story? It’s not about saying our paid reps aren’t good enough, but no-one stuck in an office 24/7 can actually do justice to explaining all the issues without living them.

 

Substandard facilities

I talk to blokes in Western Australia – they just can’t get drivers. I reckon the east coast isn’t much better. Let’s be honest, there’s so bloody much needing fixing. Brand new saleyards and the ramps and truck wash aren’t right. Truck washes built without walls so operators get sprayed with effluent. No shower facilities provided. Yet we have selling pens that have fantastic roofing and safe catwalks.

We must be so aware of animal welfare, which I agree is important. But what about driver welfare? What about a toilet or a shower? What about being able to sleep somewhere?

I know it’s rural oriented (sorry but it’s what I know best and it translates to all the other sectors) but people are still getting injured at dangerous facilities. Ramps and unloading sites have to be maintained and fixed.

We still have some enforcement being heavy-handed rather than educating operators with clean records. We have unloading delays, we have curfews and deadlines that are unrealistic and risky. The few parking bays on offer can be filthy, potholed and have no basic facilities. Road access is often too narrow, and badly designed. It’s so bloody obvious, isn’t it?

I urge the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to step up. Enough’s enough. We need off-road fatigue fixed. Let’s start seeing some action on unloading times, curfews, dangerous facilities, pressure on drivers to get to destinations and badly built or non-maintained facilities.

Chain of responsibility (COR) is here. We have told the Regulator of many specific urgent issues in the livestock and rural transport sector – and we want some action. I think we all need to see COR being enforced on facilities and those who dictate how transport works, because it’s really easy to believe nothing has changed. I don’t know if operators are using the NHVR hotline, I would like to know if their issues and reports are being followed up.

If you don’t tell people what you need, they will decide it for you. We don’t need experts telling us how to do our job, so let’s commit to working together to fix this thing we call the transport industry.

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