OPINION: Goldmine of revenue

By: Ken Wilkie


The trucking industry is the goose that keeps laying the golden egg for bureaucracy

OPINION: Goldmine of revenue
Unlicensed to tarp...

 

It is general knowledge that the road transport industry contributes more than its obligations to treasury to meet road user charges. But in an underhanded manner, bureaucracy has gone to politicians demanding a massive increase in monies through the fuel excise levy. Have they no conscience?

Blind Freddy knows full well that, firstly, road transport is a service industry; the costs of the service provided has to be borne by the productive industry that it serves.

Secondly, thanks to an unconscionable management attitude by some members of the industry, ruthless competition has left none to insufficient profit margins.

Thirdly, one of the most severe droughts on record is blanketing Australia. Primary industry is already on its knees, trying to survive high costs and poor to zero returns.

Lastly, Australia has already cut its own throat in relation to being able to compete with the rest of the world. Remember the Falcon car that used to be assembled in Victoria and likewise Holden, not to mention Toyota. That manufacturing industry is part of history gone by. The demise of Australian manufacturing is evidenced by the general inability to purchase anything with a ‘Made in Australia’ logo on the product. In short, Australian producers are being taken to the cleaners by the public sector of society.

Average Australians are aware that the political family gives itself a glorious handout far and above what that average punter can ever hope to earn. But while most have suspicions, few realise that much of bureaucracy is better remunerated than even the Prime Minister. So industry associations have been able to talk down the extent of the proposed increases to a more reasonable level – but the increase has still been pushed through under the guise of paying for improvements in infrastructure.

Hence, we have not only a toll on the badly-designed truck route to bypass Toowoomba, a toll on the soon-to-be-opened Pennant Hills detour, and fines for heavy vehicle operators who choose not to use these detours, including the somewhat long-established Gateway Bridge Road around Brisbane. Bear in mind that use of toll roads has to be optional for other road users.

On top of that, heavy vehicles are precluded from actually fully using some major roads – not through any fault of truck drivers but because motorists are never encouraged to proceed at a benchmark speed. Talk about truckies always having to use the servant’s entrance!

Sweetheart deals

Some years ago an agency called the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) was set up supposedly to facilitate a "one nation, one regulation" scenario. That is why it has ‘national’ in its title. It is no secret that I consider that it has dismally failed to deliver its mandate. I don’t suggest it is all the fault of those entrusted with the ambition. I understand there is considerable bastardy going on behind the scenes by those who fear their own little goldmine might be removed in the move to make the industry more cost effective.

Sadly, I consider the NHVR is shooting itself in the hip by doing sweetheart deals with sections of the industry. Not only are these higher mass vehicles rendering that "one nation, one regulation" ambition further distorted, I consider they are also undermining the commercial prospects of those not able to take up higher mass opportunities.

Talking about undermining commercial activities – I see an article attributed to the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) where it is concerned that the accreditation system run by the NHVR does not pass the pub test of separation of powers. I won’t argue with that, but isn’t it convenient what is raised when personal issues are at stake? The ATA claims that the current self-accreditation situation whereby the NHVR is both regulator and service provider fails the neutral competition policy that is federal and state competition policy.

I wonder when someone in the glass castle will apply the same concern to current registration charges? The bigger and heavier are being subsidised by the small and light operators.

Lack of morality

In my previous column I rabbited on about morality: bank management apologising for illegal activity when a person of integrity would never have gone down that road in the first place. And bureaucrats sidling up to politicians in the dark to gain revenue to bolster the national nest egg so that those bureaucrats can continue their leeching of the economy. The things that go on behind closed doors!

Yes I know there have been calls for submissions on a revised National Heavy Vehicle Law. Rod Hannifey and many others have decried the difficulty of being able to make submissions. There are still operators out there who not only have not heard of the heard the call to submit submissions, but even now are failing to understand the mystery of the current laws. Not just operators but driver allocators also.

Would those who are directed to fill in a work diary please understand that it is very possible to have two 24 periods running at once. A group of operators who suffered a layover at a construction site duly recorded seven hours rest – after all they were sitting in a canteen talking about the sorts of things bored truckies talk about. The problem arose the next day because they had not factored in that a count forward from when they were finally able to head out was possible.

Folks be wary! We don’t have intelligent regulations yet. What we’ve still got is a set of laws drawn up by an overpaid bureaucracy based on assumptions and presumptions.

Unlicensed to tarp

A well-known organisation that is renowned for undercutting established rates and then using its subcontractor fleet to service its new customer by slashing the previous barely reasonable rate to subbies. Well this group (and it doesn’t have a monopoly on that manner of achieving higher company profits) recently recruited a new driver. Yes, they do employ some driving staff.

One of their customers is recognised for all the liability reducing excesses that are labelled as "workplace health and safety". The new driver carried the required licence to drive the vehicle he was allocated to. The poor bugger had never seen a load tarped before, let alone been given any instruction in the skill or technique to follow.

An owner-driver of long standing had to forego valuable time to give the new chum a demonstration and explanation that first tying off the sides results in a non-professional and flapping mess. The same mob has decreed that its subcontractors will now have to pass a Federal Police security check, at the cost of the subbie of course. It’s not compulsory, but the company’s subbies will undertake the check.

Can you see what is not written here? It’s not written on the advice to subbies either. They also expect personal details of subbies’ bank statements, supposedly to direct payment. Bloody hell - if they were one of the best payers it would be over the top.

How things change. An up-and-coming owner-driver was vigorous in condemnation of the RSRT proposal. It seems things are seen in a different light now that experience has been gained in the cutthroat world of owner-driving. Maybe politics is the next learning experience?

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