Re-elected chairman charts future course for ATA

Re-elected ATA Chairman David Simon to focus on national reforms, truck charges and sleep disorders in 2012

April 5, 2012

The man at the helm of Simon National Carriers has been re-elected to lead the industry’s peak lobbying outfit, and has committed to focusing on three key issues in 2012 affecting the country’s operators.

David Simon was yesterday elected to continue as the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) chairman. He has served one term in the role, and at its annual general meeting in Canberra the ATA unanimously voted to keep him in the post.

Simon, whose company runs a fleet of more than 150 trucks, told the group national heavy vehicle regulations, truck charges and the need to address sleep disorders would be top of his to-do list.

He says the ATA identified 1020 issues with the draft regulations last year.

"One of my key goals this year will be [to] get as many of those problems fixed as [soon as] possible, so the industry and community can reap the potential safety and productivity benefits of this important national reform," Simon says.

Along with Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) Executive Director Philip Halton, Simon was last year appointed to the project board of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

The ATA, like others in the industry, is also fuming about the latest round of truck charges that will increase the fuel tax by 2.4 cents per litre and drive up registration charges by more than 30 percent in some cases.

"To put it mildly, we’re not happy with the outcome. The increase in the fuel tax and many registration charges will be a huge blow for trucking businesses that are already on the margin," Simon says.

Arguing the fees represent "a huge step backward" for multi-combination prime movers, Simon adds that governments will overcharge the industry $1.1 billion because information used to calculate charges is out of date.

"We’re committed to paying our way, but not overpaying," Simon says.

He has also seized on new findings published in the international health journal, Sleep stating 40 percent of Australian truck drivers are likely to have undiagnosed sleep apnoea. However, only 12 percent reported sleep problems on the questionnaire used in medicals.

"Sleep apnoea is a major problem with important safety implications. It’s one of the key issues I raised when I became the chairman of the ATA. It needs to be a priority for 2012," Simon says.

In his chairman’s report to ATA members, Simon pointed to the group’s 2011 achievements which included securing clearer eligibility rules for disaster assistance and gaining support for higher productivity vehicles in the Federal Government’s draft land freight strategy.

He also pointed to the ATA’s campaign against a carbon tax on the trucking industry. Under the government’s plans, the tax will be applied to heavy vehicle fuel use on July 1, 2014. The move will slice 6.8 cents per litre off the fuel tax credit.

"Across the board, through those issues, we didn’t get everything we wanted," Simon says.

"But we kept up the pressure on the government and its agencies. We got results everywhere we could and achieved a lot."

Although Simon is staying on, the ATA’s annual general meeting marked the end for long-serving board member Derek Nathan. He joined the board in 2001, and his departure follows that of Denis Robertson, who stood down in June last year because of health issues.

"Derek has also resigned as the chair of the Skills and Workforce Committee, but will remain on council. So we will be asking for someone to step forward to take on the chairmanship of this committee," Simon says.

Robertson was part of a group which helped set up the ATA in 1991 and chaired the association from 1993 to 1996.

"I hope he will be able to rejoin the board in the future," Simon says.

Along with Kathy Williams, Mountain Industries Managing Director Mike Almond and Cunderdin Transport owner Mark Sullivan were re-elected unopposed to the board. Williams was also elected unopposed as the ATA’s secretary and treasurer.

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