TWU condemns proposed Melbourne port truck tax

TWU joins the VTA in criticising the Victorian Government's plan to charge trucking operators a fee at Melbourne ports

TWU condemns proposed Melbourne port truck tax
TWU condemns proposed Melbourne port truck tax
By Rob McKay | September 9, 2010

The Transport Workers Union has joined the Victorian Transport Association in calling for the proposed Freight Infrastructure Charge to be scrapped.

The charge - the VTA described it as "a big new tax on transport and international trade" when Roads and Ports Minister Tim Pallas unveiled it in May - will come at a time when truck drivers are already facing significant economic hardships, according to TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

"Low margins, unpaid working time and no access to full-cost recovery puts pressure drivers to drive unsafe hours and to do less maintenance," Sheldon says.

"This proposal would put even more pressure on drivers and make things worse.

"Study after study has shown the mounting costs on truck drivers are causing more deaths on our roads.

"In the last 21 years there have been 3,835 deaths in the road transport industry, and according to a recent NRMA study, this has increased year on year, with over 300 people killed last year.

"If the Victorian Government is committed to efficiency and revenue, rather than slugging drivers with an extra cost, they should follow NSW’s lead and put the responsibility on the stevedores to book timeslots so drivers are not waiting for hours.

"Truck drivers have no guarantee of full-cost recovery as it is.

"We need a system of safe rates across the country, where drivers can get all costs back for rising charges and fluctuating fuel prices, otherwise we are going to see rising economic pressure cause unsafe practices."

The TWU Victorian-Tasmanian Secretary Wayne Mader says many drivers around Melbourne’s ports are concerned over the new charge.

"I have been talking to a number of owner-drivers around the ports and they are worried they will never be able to re-coup their costs from their clients or the stevedore," Mader says.

"Employee drivers are also worried about their bosses not being able to keep profitable and they too could lose their jobs."

The VTA backed the TWU move saying it thought the union should reflect its members concerns.

Deputy CEO Neil Chambers says the VTA is advising members to pass on the administrative and financial costs of dealing with what it is calling simply the "truck tax", as well as the charge itself, all of which will make clear what burden of doing business through the port of Melbourne will be.

"The cash-flow implications of this charge are significant," Chambers says.

The TWU also urged the Victorian Government to institute a system of paid waiting times around the ports, much like the recently implemented NSW system for both owner drivers and employee drivers.

"Major clients at the ports have a way of passing on all costs to the drivers. Recent TWU surveys of Australian ports have shown drivers are spending an average of 22 hours a week unpaid waiting in line to load and unload," Mr Sheldon said.

"The TWU has had a long-term view that the way trucks are operated has an effect on the environment, and our members, the government and responsible company’s have been taken measures to minimise those effects.

"The NSW Government has introduced paid waiting times at Botany Bay and if this is rolled out across the country, it will have a large effect on the emissions from trucks," Sheldon says.

"We have seen drivers who are not paid waiting times sitting in line for an extra 10 hours a week.

"That in itself contributes an extra eight tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year."

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