The National Road Freighters Association, a grass-roots body representing truckies and small-fleet operators, has sent authorities what it believes is a roadmap to help the industry safely navigate its way through Covid.
In the form of an open letter to ministers and parliamentarians, the NRFA summarises what its members see as six key issues holding the industry back, along with solutions.
“Our greatest fear is our industry will start to crack under the strain,” said NRFA president Rod Hannifey in the plan’s preface.
“We are very concerned for truck driver’s mental health with the constant Covid rule changes between states.
“We put this forward with genuine intent, to work with any and all other associations to see us able to continue to keep delivering to Australians, a job we have done so well during this crisis.”
The NRFA plan:
- We’re happy to do our part and be tested every seven days, nothing less is necessary or fair on us, unless you provide numerous 24/7 testing centres with truck access. Such sites must include vaccinations. We were left out from the essential list and it will take time to catch up. Trying to keep working, get tested every three days and still have to book and queue weeks in advance and lose more time/pay to get vaccinated is not only unjust, but unworkable for some. To ensure we can comply and get priority for vaccinations, get test results back in time to cross borders, the road transport industry must be recognised as essential.
- We will apply for and carry a National Freight Permit if required, valid in every state and territory, for a minimum period of 14 days. All states must agree. There should be no rule or border changes without industry consultation and without less than two weeks notice.
- Truck stops must be allowed to operate, we must have access to toilets, showers and facilities if you want us to continue carrying your needs and not get sick or tired trying to comply with multitudes of different rules. No facility should refuse us access to a toilet, we will happily wipe down a seat before and after use. If they fail to provide us with such facilities (as they must do under law for their staff) they should be fined. We too need toilets.
- There must be a moratorium on non-road safety related logbook fines. We are not lawless or above the law, but any fines issued by police under the HVNL, must be reviewed by NHVR before they will be actioned. We do hope the HVNL review will affect some of these concerns, but it will not be resolved for many months. We cannot continue being fined for clerical and minor time errors. The cost to the community of us fighting such onerous fines for little more than a mistake, is not only a waste of taxpayer’s money, it is not in any way, fair justice.
- We require a National Road Standard, the road should be accepted as our workplace, major crashes investigated and not simply the driver charged first and last. Roads and road repairs must meet that standard or be repaired to that standard within an agreed time frame.
- There must be a National Truck Rest Area Strategy to provide suitable and sufficient truck rest areas. This to improve our safety and that of other road users. To improve our ability to get good quality sleep as and when needed. In relation to drivers and sleep, there must be consultation on reasonable size sleeper berths. Not more freight, but better places to live and sleep in when on the road.
“We believe the top four items are achievable, reasonable and will provide some balance and consistency to make trucking safer and fairer,” Hannifey added.
“As an industry we have all too often been left chasing our tail, trying to comply with not only different interpretations of the rules, but complete rule changes, often weekly.
“Our job is hard enough without this inconsistency and not only moving the goal posts, but often the entire field overnight.
“We want to do the job, we are happy to comply with reasonable requests to do our part, but we must have a fair and equitable base from which to operate.”