New pallet code of conduct gains support

Refrigerated Warehouse and Transport Association endorses voluntary pallet trading code of conduct

By Rob McKay | September 1, 2010

Refrigerated Warehouse and Transport Association members voted to endorse a voluntary pallet trading code of conduct at their national conference in Melbourne yesterday.

The move will give added impetus to reform efforts by the Victorian Transport Association and Pallet Loss Prevention (PLP).

VTA Vice Chairman Paul Fleiszig hailed the vote as an industry first.

"This is a fairly powerful thing," Fleiszig told the conference, pointing out the federal and Victorian government interest in pallet reform and the fact that all involved in pallets had agreed to trade the same way.

The reform is also seen as important in that it is easily understood by workers.

"The guys that actually have to do it are forklift drivers and truck drivers," Fleiszig says

"There’s no point having a big, thick code of conduct that these guys don’t understand and can’t read and, therefore, aren’t going to act properly."

Pallet controllers subcommittee chairman Trevor Gobbi says difficulty complying with policies of the major distribution centres, such as those controlled by supermarket chains had resulted in the loss of pallets or hire days or both.

Accounts had been blocked so trading freely in them had been stopped.

Coles, for example, had refused to consider queries on dockets older than two months even in the face of a signed docket with evidence of receipt.

Supermarkets distribution centres had also not processed on the day of receipt.

There are, however, signs of improvement. This includes a reduction in delay days by both Coles and Woolworths in their cold and chilled sections - in some cases down from 33 days to seven.

Earlier this month, PLP head John Stuart gave an update to the NatRoad conference on the involvement of the Federal Government and the small business commissioner for Victoria in improving pallet hire in Australia.

It is hoped the next federal government will support the code of conduct and an ombudsman.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Office of the Small Business Commissioner will set up a meeting of the major stakeholders on September 16.

The code of conduct involves:

• Equipment Types - The company will only trade in Chep or Loscam wooden pallets. Other equipment types may only be traded by prior arrangement.

• Active Accounts - Trading Partners must maintain active Pallet Accounts otherwise other arrangements will need to be made prior to trading pallets.

• Standard & Non Standard Delays - The term "Standard Delay" refers to the number of Delayed Hire Days imposed by Retail and Food Service customers. "Non Standard" delays may be negotiated between trading partners with the agreement of the owner of the freight. Standard and Non Standard delayed hire days are ultimately the responsibility of the owner of the freight.

• Ownership - The responsibility or "ownership" of the pallets rests with the party who is in possession of the pallets, i.e., whilst in storage, the "ownership" rests with the storage provider and whilst "in transit’ the "ownership" rests with the transport provider.

• Exchanges - Pallets may only be exchanged by prior agreement between trading partners. Pallets must be in a good and undamaged condition.

• Presentation of Dockets - A copy of the pallet transfer docket should travel with the goods being transported. It is the responsibility of the sending Trading Partner to present their transfers off to Chep and Loscam within the allowable time frames specified by Chep and Loscam in their trading terms. Unpresented dockets outside these time frames will need the authority of the Receiving Trading Partner to have these dockets processed.

• Dispute Resolution - The RWTA encourages open and honest communication between Trading Partners in their efforts to resolve disputes. However, the burden of proof remains with the Sending Trading Partner to provide satisfactory evidence of the transfer of pallets between the Trading Partners. It should be noted that, as Pallet Transfer Dockets constitute legally binding contracts, the age of any dockets in dispute is only limited by the current relevant Statute of Limitations. The receiving Trading Partners should assist in investigating claims up to six months old. Claims older than six months should be honoured according to the Statute upon receipt of satisfactory documentary evidence provided by the Sending Trading Partner. Any claim agreed to within six months will be honoured effective as at the transaction date (no delays). A claim greater than six months will be made by mutual agreement.

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