Trucking operators get paid waiting times at Port Botany

Stevedores had their chance and failed. The government steps in, mandating paid waiting times for trucking operators at Port Botany

Trucking operators get paid waiting times at Port Botany
Trucking operators get paid waiting times at Port Botany
By Brad Gardner | April 29, 2010

Tardy stevedores will be forced to reimburse trucking operators for waiting times as part of new reforms announced today.

Minister for Ports and Waterways Paul McLeay’s patience has finally run out with Patrick and DP World, which have been criticised by truckers for lengthy delays of up to five hours.

McLeay today unveiled an operational performance management framework as part of the Port Botany Landside Improvement Strategy to improve truck movements in and out the port, reduce waiting times and make better use of port infrastructure.

From the end of September the framework will force stevedores to pay a trucking operator $25 for every 15 minute delay, $100 if a slot is cancelled within two hours of the agreed access time or $50 if the slot is cancelled outside the two-hour timeframe.

Trucking operators will also feel the pinch, with McLeay ordering them to pay $50 for a late arrival and $100 if their trucks do not show up.

"While there has been some improvement with truck carrier movements and development of the reform plan we can no longer wait for stevedores to fully embrace landslide reform," McLeay says.

"These new regulations will be the first step in introducing greater transparency and accountability between stevedores and transport carriers, with the overall objective of making the entire land supply chain more efficient."

The trucking industry was previously forced to bear the cost of waiting times because stevedores were not required to reimburse them. However, operators were penalised for late arrivals and for failing to show up.

Mike Moylan from wharf operator Johnston’s Transport last year claimed delays at Port Botany had reached "crisis point", with drivers forced to queue for up to six hours.

DP World on January 21 this year gave operators only one hour’s notice it was cancelling the 7pm and 8pm timeslots.

Sydney Ports had been waiting since August 2009 for stevedores to commit to performance benchmarks designed to reduce the backlog of vehicles at the port.

DP World and Patrick ignored repeated requests to sign up, leaving McLeay no choice but to step in.

"The NSW ports minister has it made it clear, as recently as January, that in the absence of a voluntary agreement the NSW Government will regulate the OPM framework," a spokesman for Sydney Ports told ATN earlier this year.

New technology will be introduced to monitor landside operations and Sydney Ports will increase existing wharfage by $10 per TEU container for all imports and exports.

The Transport Workers Union has backed the Government, labelling paid waiting times as a big step forward for fairness and safety in the industry.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says the reform means drivers stuck in line for hours will not need to worry about making up lost time at the end of the trip.

"We have conducted surveys where drivers are telling us they are spending an average of 22 hours a week unpaid waiting in line to load and unload," Sheldon says.

"Financially, they can be forced to make this up in other ways by driving harder or cutting corners with proper vehicle maintenance. By having paid waiting times, the company driver, or the owner driver, is not sitting in their investment not making a cent."

The union plans to talk to the industry in May to see about introducing paid waiting times nationwide.

Sheldon says the problem is not limited to the ports.

"We often are told of drivers waiting for hours at a distribution centre to load or unload the goods, and they are not paid for their time," he says.

McLeay says it is vital to boost efficiency at Port Botany to meet the predicted growth in container handling over the next 20 years.

He highlighted 24/7 operations as a solution to reducing congestion and improving productivity at the port.

His comments come as trade figures for March show Port Botany hit its sixth month of record volumes.

"March saw trade volumes reaching another record high of 149,000 containers shifted through the port," McLeay says.

Almost half of all imports came from East Asia while South East Asia and Europe accounted for 15 percent each.

Commodities such as iron and steel grew significantly last month, increasing by 30 percent compared to the same time last year.

Paper product exports increased by 32.9 percent and textile fabric imports grew by 13.8 percent.

"The NSW Government is expecting trade volumes to continue to grow at Port Botany in the coming months and years," McLeay says.

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