Far from agreeing on uniform national road transport regulations as has been the forlorn hope of the industry, the government is introducing yet another layer of complexity that has transport organisations up in arms.
In particular, there are two sections in the Fair Work Bill that have operators worried.
“The senate must block a government amendment to the Fair Work Bill that would impose more red tape on trucking companies without improving safety,” the manager of ATA NSW, Jill Lewis, said.
“The government plans to amend the Fair Work Bill to add a new section, section 140A, which would allow a modern award to include terms relating to the conditions under which a company can employ drivers to undertake long distance transport work,” Ms Lewis said.
“It’s a plan to duplicate the NSW trucking industry award – the Mutual Responsibility for Road Safety Award – in the federal sphere. This would be a red tape nightmare for trucking operators and would not improve safety.
“The NSW Award includes its own provisions about fatigue management, which conflict with the new [federal] fatigue laws. But the new fatigue laws are nearly bulletproof, they cover all the parties in the supply chain, they are nationally consistent in the main, and have broad industry support.
“In contrast, no trucking operator supports the fatigue provisions in the NSW Award. They just add extra complexity to running a trucking business without improving safety, because the national fatigue laws are comprehensive.
“The government has not consulted with the trucking industry about this amendment, because they know they can’t justify extending the NSW system across the country.
“The Senate must now act and defeat this amendment, before Australia’s trucks are entangled in even more red tape,” Ms Lewis said.
Section 154 is equally troublesome.
“Employers are likely to experience confusion with their safety-related obligations towards employees if provisions in the Federal Government’s proposed Fair Work Bill ever take effect,” said Hugh McMaster, secretary and treasurer of the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation, NSW Branch.
Mr McMaster said Clause 154 of the Bill, if passed by Parliament, would allow for the inclusion in transport industry awards of obligations on employers related to safe driving plans, training in areas related to safety awareness as well as written drug and alcohol policies.
“Existing occupational health and safety and road laws ensure there are extensive obligations on all parties across the freight and logistics chain, including truck drivers, to provide for safe workplaces in the road transport industry,” Mr McMaster said.
“New road-based fatigue laws were introduced simultaneously in several states, including NSW last September, following a decade of consultation such is the complexity of operations in the road freight and logistics sector.”
Mr McMaster said these new laws need time to be understood by all parties, including consignors and consignees who have traditionally operated free of legislative or regulatory obligation in safety related areas in road transport.
“ARTIO NSW’s clear preference is for participants the supply chain to focus on the new road laws so widespread compliance can be achieved.”
Mr McMaster said road transport employers in NSW take their safety obligations very seriously.
“There is already widespread use within the industry of company based polices supported by training where appropriate in areas such as drugs, alcohol and fatigue management.
“Consultation with the Federal Government can provide assurance that existing legislation can address their concerns without the need to resort to these proposed new provisions.”