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More rest areas after consultation with truckies, promises Sterle

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One of Labor’s first priorities for truckies is deciding where to build $80 million of rest areas.

The spend was Labor’s main industry-specific pledge before last night’s election victory, and Sterle said the rest areas would be built and designed after close consultation with truckies, rather than relying on associations and government agencies for input.

“I want the truckies to tell us where they want the trucks bays and what they expect in the bays,” said WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle, who was the Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety before his party swept into power.

“I can’t think of any way better to deliver the outcomes than we want to achieve than by talking to the men and women who use them [rest areas].

“With the greatest of respect to our mates who represent the associations, they’re not truck drivers so wholly and solely, this is the domain of truck drivers and truck drivers only.”

Sterle, a former truckie himself, said the rest area issue was one of the main discussion points to come out of his wide-sweeping Senate inquiry.

Sterle also told Big Rigs that the $80m will be delivered “straight up”, not over three or four years and be part of Labor’s first budget expected to be announced in November, should they win next month’s federal election.

He said early costings reveal that it would take $5m to deliver new road train assembly areas, with toilets and showers.

“If the state-of-the-art is $5m, this will still build 16 state-of-the-art rest areas we don’t have, strategically placed on freight routes where we have the traffic.”

Before the Labor Party’s election win, Sterle also emphasised that truckies should not fear a return of the much-maligned payment order under the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

Instead, Sterle said Labor will form an independent body that will, in consultation with industry, set universal and binding standards, as per the senate committee’s recommendations, and also oversee dispute resolution.

“We’re very clear on our policy around the independent body, which goes to the heart of what the remuneration tribunal was,” said Sterle.

“The whole intent is not to isolate owner-drivers, but to have a hand-in-hand, independent body headed up by industry, with input by industry, to make sure we have the opportunity to not only be paid on time, but to be paid properly and to be paid sustainably.”

Sterle believes that without this element, the industry would be short-changed where it counts most.

“This is what’s been lacking sadly over the years; there is no voice for the Australian road transport industry in Canberra,” he said.

“There are certain entities that stand up for their members, and good on them, but as a united front, it’s non-existent in Canberra. That’s why they treat us so poorly.

“There is so much we all agree on and we need to come together to discuss the things we agree on, but unfortunately we’ve had the government that does not want to have a collective industry representation because it’s so much easier to entertain one or two friends who come through the door, take their phone calls and do five-eighths of stuff all.”

There is a long list of other issues that Sterle is itching to sink his teeth into, from overhauling fatigue management – he’s a big fan of the WA model – to changing truck design rules to allow truckies bigger sleepers and other amenities.

“This bullshit where we can have caravans with toilets and showers in them, but we can’t get an extra 200mm on a prime mover because, God help us if we have a little bit more weight supposedly over the steers. What a load of shit.

“We should be doing this sort of stuff.”

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