Industry groups refuse to support shutdown

By: Jason Whittaker

An owner-driver threatening to shut down the trucking industry is travelling the countryside to gain support while industry groups scramble

An owner-driver threatening to shut down the trucking industry is travelling the countryside to gain support while industry groups scramble to distance themselves from him.

Queensland-based owner-driver Mick Pattel will head to Dubbo this weekend, and will then hold meetings in Bendigo, South Australia and south of Sydney.

Australian Road Train Association (ARTA) President John Morris says he understands the pain owner-drivers are going through as registration charges increase and fuel hits record-high prices. But he says concerned groups should be using established associations to voice their concerns rather than threatening to stop work.

Although the ARTA has adopted a firm stance against the shutdown, Pattel claims the group has given its support to his campaign, which will start on July 28 and run for two weeks. Furthermore, he says "support is unbelievable" among truck drivers.

Sections of the ARTA’s membership are supporting Pattel’s concerns over regulatory overkill, but there are doubts as to whether they will take part in the shutdown.

Pattel is pushing for the National Transport Commission (NTC) to be disbanded, fines for logbook breaches to be scrapped, registration charges to be capped as well as an assurance fuel will be spared from a carbon tax and the diesel excise will not be indexed.

But Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Chairman Trevor Martyn says owner-drivers should be spending their time sorting out cost pressures rather than stopping work for two weeks. Martyn also reiterated Morris’ call for individuals to join up to the ATA’s member organisations.

"The price of diesel is going up across the world because of China’s massive demand for fuel. Holding a two-week strike in Australia will have no effect on prices at all," Martyn says.

The ATA says small operators should be regularly reviewing their costs every week and negotiating with their customers on increased freight rates and fuel surcharges.

Pattel, however, is unlikely to heed the peak body’s advice, saying "we need to clean out the ATA". He has accused the ATA of towing the government line despite the fact it was vociferous in its opposition to increased registration charges, jursidictional changes to fatigue laws and the indexation of the fuel excise.

Pattel wants Chief Executive Stuart St Clair replaced, claiming he does not represent the trucking industry because of his government background.

"I’ve got him in my sights," he says.

He also wants Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese gone, saying he does not know what he is doing.

The Federal Government, did however, try to meet with Pattel to come to an agreement. He refused the invitation, saying his 15 demands were non-negotiable.

The Australian Long Distance and Owner Drivers Association (ALDODA) is also pushing its membership to stop work on July 28 after its two-week strike from June 12 to June 25 did not achieve anything.

But Pattel is rejecting its support, saying ALDODA is attempting to hijack the process in an effort to promote its own issues.

"They are trying to railroad the process for their own agenda," he says.

"I call them Al-Qaeda not ALDODA because they are so destructive."

He says their call for legislated pay rates will garner no support because the trucking industry thrives on free market wages.

ATN contacted ALDODA, but it is yet to receive a reply.

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