Don't target drivers with GPS trackers: TWU

TWU weighs into debate on proposal for mandatory truck trackers, saying clients must be accountable for delivery times

By Brad Gardner | September 1, 2010

Transport clients that set delivery schedules should be required to pay for GPS trackers under any mandatory scheme, according to the Transport Workers Union.

The TWU has weighed into the debate on in-vehicle telematics, which Toll, Linfox and Asciano want mandated for all long distance operations to monitor speed and fatigue compliance.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon has questioned how small contractors such as owner-drivers will be able to afford the units.

"An owner-driver should not have to pay thousands of dollars for a unit. If this cost is going to rest with anyone it must be the clients," Sheldon says.

He says it is easy to blame drivers if work hours are exceeded, but pressure must be put on those who set delivery times. He wants industry-wide consultation on the issue.

"If we are going to see this rolled out in any capacity then the end result must not see drivers solely targeted – the clients schedule must also come into the equation," Sheldon says.

"This can’t be used as another hit against drivers – this needs to go up the supply chain."

Under the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award, a long distance operation is defined as any interstate work or return journey exceeding 500km.

Sheldon has questioned why short-haul operators should be left of out of a monitoring scheme.

"There are many accidents that happen on local work. The pressures there are the same and that needs to be acknowledged," he says.

Toll, Linfox and Asciano submitted their proposal for compulsory tracking to the National Transport Commission, which is currently looking at ways to improve the adoption of telematics by the trucking industry.

The three parties agree mandatory tracking will improve compliance because the major causes of truck accidents are speed and fatigue related.

"We believe it should be mandatory for companies to monitor fatigue and speed using telematics technology," Toll, Linfox and Asciano write.

Under the proposed scheme, the GPS devices will be capable of emailing messages to notify the vehicle owner of a breach, warn drivers when they are speeding and count driving hours to inform drivers when they are reaching a limit.

The devices will also be equipped with anti-tampering systems, traceable records, driver identification such as smartcards and measures to log accident data.

However, Toll, Linfox and Asciano want all information to remain under the control of a company instead of a system similar to the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) which transmits information to road authorities.

Companies will be subjected to external audits and accreditation such as an industry code of conduct and will provide the information in the event of a major incident or investigation.

Toll, Linfox and Asciano want a single national standard developed to govern the scheme and believe the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is the ideal candidate to develop guidelines. The Regulator will be running in 2013.

The three parties say companies should be free to use any device as long as it meets a national standard and want monitoring limited to speed and fatigue.

"The Regulator should amend legislation where required to allow use of electronic work diaries where operators choose to implement them as part of their telematics system."

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) says any compulsory scheme should be phased in over a period of time so trucking operators can gradually fit the technology. The ALC also recommends a subsidy scheme to encourage the use of telematics.

However, the Australian Trucking Association believes any scheme should be voluntary and used by governments to encourage the use of monitoring tools to improve compliance and aid business operations.

The TWU has also reiterated the need for a new renumeration scheme – ‘safe rates’ – to ensure truck drivers receive enough pay to support their families, do their jobs safely and maintain their vehicles.

The Federal Government was due to release a discussion paper in July on overhauling pay methods in trucking. The TWU wants a tribunal established to rule on what constitutes an equitable rate.

A study commissioned by the National Transport Commission in 2008 found a link between low pay and poor safety. It recommended government intervention to fix the problem.

"Drivers are not guaranteed full-cost recovery – there is a real need for the immediate implement of safe rates and conditions covering both employee and owner-drivers. We need to see drivers get full cost recovery so they are not forced to undertake unsafe working practices to make a living," Sheldon says.

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