Shutdown begins but trucking operator says support not there

By: Jason Whittaker

Disillusioned truck drivers have started a national shutdown but there are already claims it will fail to achieve any meaningful

Disillusioned truck drivers have started a national shutdown but there are already claims it will fail to achieve any meaningful gains.

Operators and owner-drivers, fed up with soaring diesel prices and impending regulations, converged on a number of truck stops designed to pressure the government into acceding to a list of demands.

But the Australian Long Distance and Owner Drivers Association (ALDODA) latest crusade has failed to draw overwhelming support despite claims 80 percent of the industry is backing it.

In a statement from the organisation, shutdown organiser and president of ALDODA’s Queensland branch, Lyn Bennetts, says 470 truck drivers took part across regional areas in Queensland and NSW. But while she says more than 400 trucks joined a convoy in Brisbane, and operator who attended the shutdown claims it was closer to the media figure of 43.

Anthony Cartwright from A&J Cartage says the turnout is "embarrassing" based on the amount of angst in the industry due to rising running costs.

"I was disappointed with the amount of numbers that showed up," he says.

"It was a waste of time turning up."

About 200 truck drivers turned up to the Brisbane meeting point at a service station.

According to Bennetts, ALDODA will receive most of its support in Melbourne, claiming about 600 to 800 drivers will stop work.

However, the Victorian strike organiser Fletcher Davis says between 200 to 300 drivers took part in the shutdown. But he says ALDODA expects more to come on board as the week goes on.

Davis says he is happy with the progress after around 30 trucks took part in a convoy through Melbourne streets.

"It was a great public relations exercise," Davis says.

ALDODA wants the Federal Government to mandate set pay rates for owner-drivers as well as abolish logbook laws and the diesel excise.

Bennetts says the money is not being spent on upgrading roads so it should be returned to the trucking industry.

The National Road Transport Forum, led by Queensland-based owner-driver Mick Pattel, is also running a shutdown of its own aimed at disbanding the National Transport Commisson (NTC) and scrapping fatigue laws as well as new logbooks.

Both organisers have also taken offence to the lack of adequate rest areas, with Bennetts saying the Rudd Goernment’s $70 million safety and productivity packages—of which a portion is to be spent on rest areas—is not good enough.

"That is an insult when owner-drivers alone spend $4.8 billion in taxes a year and the Government has come back with a slap in the face with $70 million in parking bays," she says.

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