It is no good for the trucking industry, in the run up to the federal election in the next couple of months, to make like an ostrich and bury its head in the sand. There is one issue which needs to be addressed and which may not go away, no matter how much we look away, it may still cause the industry some issues.
There is an elephant in the room, which will be ignored at our peril, if the Labor Party manage to get into power later this year. Unfortunately, sticking your fingers in your ears and going la-la-la-la does not mean the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal will not reappear in some form
It is all very well for the industry associations to show support for the Coalition Government in the lead up to the election, if they judge this to be the best government for the trucking industry, and they do. The spokespeople for our industry are talking up the Libs and the Nationals and trying to help save a government which is lying second in the opinion polls.
The polls would suggest there is a possibility the government won’t get back in and we may be faced with a parliament controlled by Labor. This means the long term Transport Workers Union plan to set minimum rates to improve truck safety will be back on the table. NHVR figures tell us fatigue and transport management are big issues.
We are all well aware of what happened last time this plan got up. The RSRT was a rushed job last time around and came as a major surprise for many in the trucking industry. Its introduction was followed by wide spread panic, protests and an eventual repeal of the legislation, which took a scatter-gun approach to the issue and unfairly victimised owner driver and small fleets.
If the RSRT does make a return it will probably be a bit smarter than last time, but if the trucking industry associations don’t engage immediately with those who may drive it, if Labor gets into power, the opportunity to make it a positive rather than a negative will be lost.
The RSRT will not be sent on its way by publicly bashing the TWU. If Labor is in power the TWU and its supporters in the parliament will have leverage and it looks increasingly likely that some form of rates legislation could come into force.
For the good of all of those people working in the trucking industry, the time to start talking to the proponents of using freight rates to improve road safety is now. This will be a vital process to go through, no matter who wins the election.
If Labor wins, we will have been involved in the consultations and able to try and make sure any legislation is fair and equitable across the industry, without compromising certain sectors. The trucking industry will also have a good picture of any potential legislation with plenty of time to prepare for its introduction.
If the Coalition wins, we will have engaged with the TWU, taken some heat out of the relationship between the trucking industry and its biggest union and probably been able to influence any future policy decisions.
Sounds like a win-win situation to me.