Senate trucking report tackles safety and pay

The 10 recommendations include powerful industry standards body

Senate trucking report tackles safety and pay
Glenn Sterle

The latest Parliamentary deep dive into the state of the Australian trucking industry has been tabled in the Senate.

Named ‘Without Trucks Australia Stops: the development of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry’, it is a highly interventionist document that begins by noting the sector has an average of 180 deaths per year and an increasing number of hospitalisations.

What may end up being called the ‘Sterle Report’, after senator Glenn Sterle, who agitated for the probe and chaired the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee’s deliberations, makes 10 recommendations.

It calls for the creation an independent standards body, including for pay, tasked with eliminating unsafe economic and contracting practices.

It would "apply to all road transport supply chain participants, including transport operators, online/on demand operations, and workers (regardless of their employment or work status), and throughout supply chains".

It would also act as a dispute resolution body to these sectors.

The recommendations are focused heavily on fragmented and economically exposed position of truck drivers, whether as employees or owner-drivers.

So the standards body’s initial priority would focus on their recompense, including pay for all work time and instituting a demurrage-rates system.

This is expected to "help drivers and operators recoup costs for waiting and loading times, and that any costs or efficiency dividends associated with this change are fairly distributed through the supply chain".

The body would also establish binding industry payment terms "ensuring that all road transport workers and operators are paid in full upon-delivery".

Read about early industry support for the Senate probe, here

 To underpin its remit, a "robust and adequately resourced enforcement mechanisms" are called for ensure standards compliance.

This would empower the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and registered industrial s, such as trade unions and employer organisations, to carry out inspections and enforcement through transport supply chains.

These ‘mechanisms’ would compel "all road transport supply chain parties to disclose information about their contracting networks throughout their supply chain and provide such information to registered industrial agencies and enforcement bodies".

While that is the ‘stick’ a ‘carrot’ would be offered through the federal government favouring highest-standard operators when offering government contracts.

Not all the focus is on industrial matters. The national failure of industry training, licensing and recruitment is addressed, calling for Infrastructure and Transport Ministers’ Meeting urgency on consideration of Austroads’ review of the Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework.

While many aspects of the report back Transport Worker Union (TWU) concerns, others touch on industry concerns.

The Australian Trucking Association and it members have advocated for Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to carry out independent, no-blame safety investigations of road crashes involving commercial heavy vehicles and this is accepted.

The committee also wants all commercial vehicle crashes are recognised, treated and investigated as workplace accidents and improved data collection on the incidence and causation of work injuries and illness for both employees and owner drivers across jurisdictions.

One of the longest recommendations, the sixth, relates to truck stops, with eight points relating to amenity and safety.

Others include aid to expand the use of telematics amongst smaller operators, cash-transit reforms, effluent facility funding, fatigue, a dedicated federal transport minister and formation of a transport advisory group or commission.

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee’s work involved four Labour, two Nationals, one Liberal and five independents and Greens

The full report can be found here.

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