Voluntary codes of conduct win operator, customer support

By: Jason Whittaker

Transport customers will be called upon to sanction rogue truck drivers and companies in accordance with new codes of conduct

Transport customers will be called upon to sanction rogue truck drivers and companies in accordance with new codes of conduct launched yesterday by the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU).

However, the Professional Driver Code of Conduct and Transport Industry Operator Code of Conduct will hinge on whether the VTA or TWU can gain widespread support for the initiatives after Minister for Roads and Ports Tim Pallas declined to ask his Government to legislate the codes which would have made them enforceable.

As such, only those companies and individual drivers that sign the codes will be bound by them. But breaching them will not necessarily equate to any form of harsh punishment, with VTA Chief Executive Phil Lovel conceding his organisation, along with the TWU, can only approach transport customers to ask them to look into how operators and drivers are acting and suggest what action should be taken.

Pallas says the solution is not always to push through more laws, adding the Government will wait to see if the codes will change attitudes and increase safety within the industry before questioning whether they need to be legislated.

Lovel echoed the Minister’s claims, saying drivers don’t deserve to have onerous amounts of legislation hanging over their heads for simply doing their jobs.

But Lovel and TWU Victorian branch secretary Bill Noonan say customers, transport companies and owner-drivers have flagged support for the codes, suggesting they will be adhered to and that both organisations will push for them to be implemented in other states.

"This is leadership stuff," Lovel says. "We need to put this across the whole of Australia."

Furthermore, in a move which suggests the VTA has managed to get corporations on side, it will work to develop a Customer Code of Conduct to stipulate what is expected of freight customers such as major supermarket and other retail chains.

Pallas praised the VTA and TWU for signing the codes, saying they demonstrate "the transport industry is carrying its load" when it comes to safety.

"A profession that puts safety as the number one priority is one that must be applauded for its leadership role," he says.

The codes were signed yesterday by Lovel and Noonan during a launch attended by Pallas at the TWU’s Victorian office.

The Transport Industry Operator Code of Conduct will bind transport companies that sign it to "promote safe transport operations" by ensuring drivers are fit for work, observing fatigue regulations, avoiding illicit drugs or alcohol and committing to driving in a safe manner.

The onus will also be on companies to cut queuing and scheduling times to reduce driver fatigue, as well as to implement safety procedures to decrease the chances of accidents when loading and unloading trucks.

The Professional Driver Code of Conduct commits individuals to driving safely, observing road transport laws, obeying fatigue regulations, avoiding the use of mobile phones while driving and staying in the left lane unless overtaking.

While Noonan has not yet taken the initiatives to other TWU branches, he says it will be part of his presentation to a federal council meeting in May.

"The transport industry is security conscious, so why wouldn’t they pick up something like this?" he says.

Noonan says the codes demonstrate there is a culture of safety at the core of the transport industry. However, he added more work still needed to be done as the industry works to boost its reputation which has long been maligned in the media and community.

"We really have an issue that we need to show strong leadership with," he says. "It won’t stop here."

Lovel says the VTA will continue to press the industry’s strong focus on safety in an effort to reach the broader community to dispel the perception that truck drivers and transport companies are not concerned about safety.

"There is no other industry more committed to safety than ours," Lovel says.

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