It’s no secret that safety is one of the most important issues the Victorian Transport Association passionately advocates for, featuring prominently in our deliberations with state and federal governments, members and other employer and employee representative groups.
Indeed, higher levels of safety standards are at the very heart of our push for driver licencing reform to increase participation in our industry and broaden the appeal of road transport as a career choice for school leavers and others.
As much as we need a larger pool of professional drivers it’s more important that those drivers enter our workforce with the skills and training they need to keep themselves and other road users safe.
For this reason, the VTA – through our involvement with the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation – is pleased to join with other responsible employer and employee groups in pushing for minimum standards within the road freight industry, and the establishment of an independent body for setting standards, resolving disputes and establishing binding payment terms. This is consistent with VTA support of recommendations in the Without Trucks Australia Stops Sterle Review report.
A delegation of us recently travelled to Canberra during the first sitting week of the new Parliament where we met with elected and re-elected parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to articulate our vision for a safer road transport industry.
With the Albanese Labor government focused on delivering change and improvement, there is an opportunity for the road freight industry to drive reform and action to improve how the industry operates.
Our industry is desperate for change and improvement, along with greater safety, productivity and certainty of how to plan for the future. Fundamental change has not been seen in our industry for decades and we have also lacked the support and leadership to assist in unpacking the inequities of economic and operational environment that we face today. Significant structural change is needed in the road freight industry that will see a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient industry.
At the very top of our agenda with the politicians was ensuring the new government considers a reform agenda that will see structural industry improvement, especially with the proliferation of the gig economy and a general worsening of conditions for drivers beholden to employers that hide behind an app or a webpage.
After years of inactivity in acknowledging the challenges and systemic issues within our industry we have now started the process where will see real change that will acknowledge the good operators, isolate those that cut corners, and bring accountability to minimum standards within our industry.
We have a real problem with how gig economy employees are treated by the online platforms that are effectively a third-party employer within our industry. Those platforms are creating the issues we have today, as well as the fact we have no structured organisation that will create and enforce minimum standards within our industry.
There is no body capable of doing that in our industry at the moment, and this is what we want the politicians in parliament to legislate for; a change in our industry that protects workers, whilst ensuring employers can operate healthy businesses that are both sustainable and safe within the community.
One of the greatest misconceptions in and about our industry is that safety and productivity are mutually exclusive. However, I can say as someone that has run a transport operation, employed transport workers, and is now an advocate for transport employers and their interests, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Employers ‘get’ that there can be no legitimate productivity gains without a safe working environment and conversely employee advocates understand the challenges operators are facing with higher running costs and a limited capacity to increase rates.
Our experience in Canberra and elsewhere validates that common ground between employer and employee representative groups is achievable, and we look forward to working closely with the current government to help and support the pathway for improvement within the road freight industry.
- Peter Anderson is CEO, Victorian Transport Association