OPINION: The power of unity

By: Geoff Crouch

Now, more than ever, is the time to put differences aside and join Team Australia

OPINION: The power of unity
The new ATA Safety Truck


At a time where industry is coming together as one to face the challenges of the coronavirus crisis, we are reminded of the power of unity and the strength that comes from supporting one another. 

We’re all in this together. At this critical time it is even more essential that everyone in our industry does this. 

In a recent Owner//Driver article (March, issue #326), Frank Black accused the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) of only being concerned with big business and having a biased representation of owner drivers. This could not be further from the truth.

Frank was elected as the owner-driver representative on the ATA General Council in March 2019, however he has failed to participate in council policy committee meetings, as well as our April 1 council meeting which dealt with the critical issues around the coronavirus epidemic.

If Frank cared to do this, he would know that the ATA has had extensive engagement with truck drivers, especially in the past 12 months. 

In 2019, as the industry entered the Heavy Vehicle National Law review, the ATA made it a priority to ensure the views of truck drivers and operators were fairly and accurately represented. We delivered the Have Your Say campaign, which connected and engaged with more than 188,000 people and received a huge amount of detailed feedback from our industry’s truck drivers.

In addition to this, the ATA is regularly on the frontline engaging with trucking operators and drivers through our Coffee with a Cop initiative. 

Frank Black claims the ATA is only in place to serve ‘big business’, but this simply not true. Of the 50,000 trucking businesses in Australia, 28,900 of these are owner-drivers. That’s more than 50 percent. Of those remaining, the majority are small, family businesses. The ATA is here to serve all 50,000 businesses, whether they have one employee or one hundred.

Inflammatory accusations

Now is not the time for making inaccurate and inflammatory accusations from the sidelines while the trucking industry and wider community are facing the ongoing challenges associated with the COVID-19 crisis. 

If Frank had participated in our council meeting on April 1, he would know that the ATA is working tirelessly with our members, industry, and government to make sure trucking businesses and employees receive the support they deserve.

In the last month alone, strong lobbying from the ATA and our members has resulted in:

* exemptions for truck stops and roadhouses to remain open, and the development of health and safety protocols for these facilities

* road freight transport to be exempted from border restrictions, thanks to a huge amount of work from our member associations

* new JobKeeper payments to support up to 28,000 owner drivers

* extension of truck driver medicals

* government-guaranteed small business loans

* increased instant asset write offs

* removal of supermarket curfews, and

* the introduction of a 50 per cent investment allowance for new trucks and trailers.

Best interest

Frank was elected to represent the best interest of owner- drivers at the ATA council. Now is not the time for industry infighting. It’s time to get on with the job and do all we can to ensure the safety and viability of our industry during this time of crisis. It is time to work together to save not just our industry, but the nation.

In Frank’s Owner//Driver article, he stated that the ATA’s credibility was compromised with the Transport Workers Union not being a member. The ATA’s credibility has got nothing to do whether the Transport Workers Union is a member or not. The fact that the Transport Workers Union is no longer a member was not our choice. They simply refused to pay their bills despite multiple reminders and discussion. 

In my view, they are the ones who have let down Frank and all other owner-drivers across the country by choosing to no longer have a voice in the ATA council. 

The ATA is recognised among industry, the community and government as the peak national body representing the trucking industry and its people. Each day, our team, council and board work hard to improve the industry’s safety, professionalism and viability. That is our job, and it is a job we are proud to do. 

As Australia battles the coronavirus crisis, the ATA will continue to lobby government, engage with drivers and operators, collaborate with our members, and keep industry informed. We’re part of the Team Australia response to this crisis.

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