Now might be a good time to start preparing for the return of the RSRT. In the wake of the defeat of the Labor Party at the recent election some people in the industry may be thinking that the plans and minimum rates reforms being spruiked by Senator Sterle and the Transport Workers Union have gone away. They have gone away, for now, but they may well come back.
Just because safe rates are not going to be legislated by an incoming government does not mean the industry doesn’t have to do something about the iniquities involved in the subcontractor chain on which our industry depends. There are still countless issues where smaller operators and owner drivers are under undue pressure from the larger organisations and the major customers, to the point where they bend the rules and take risks.
So, there is still a problem there and it is one in which needs to be addressed. There are alternative means to getting a safe end result, but we need to come up with a solution. If the trucking industry or its regulators don’t come up with a solution which genuinely addresses this ongoing issue, then, if and when the Labour Party do get back into power, they will be under pressure to introduce something similar to the RSRT and it all starts again.
We do have the chain of responsibility and the complex regulation around relationships between parties in the chain . It does seem to have been effective, up to a point. We need to go beyond that point, to a point where a small subcontractor who is handling a freight task does not feel any undue pressure to act in an unsafe manner simply due to an economic relationship between them and the person for whom they are carrying the freight.
The improvement in these relationships has been excellent over the years and many of the more responsible customers have made improvements in the way they deal with transport companies and the way they organise their distribution networks. There have been improvements, but it is still the case that unsafe activity takes place out on our highways and often it is a direct result of the economic relationship between transporter and customer.
This is not to say it is all the fault of the participants further up the chain. The truck industry also has to take its share of the blame. We have worked hard to stamp out the culture, which sees risk taking as a normal part of running a business. However, there is still a good deal of the old-fashioned way of doing things in and around the trucking industry.
Risks are being taken every day and especially every night. The safety record of the trucking industry has improved out of sight, but there are still plenty of fatigue related accidents injuries and fatalities taking place on a regular basis.
If the industry takes on this challenge and cleans up his act to the point where the Transport Workers Union does not have enough evidence to back up its drive for some form of government regulated freight rates on our roads, then the industry has won. The roads of Australia will be safer, fewer of our drivers will be killed in road accidents and those who create the pressures to break the law will be punished. Isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day?