Operator licensing push 'ignores majority ancillary sector'

Ignorance of industry structure harms safety policy debate, freight expert Hassall says

Operator licensing push 'ignores majority ancillary sector'
Kim Hassall questions the basis of pressure towards operator licensing in Australia


Aspects of the trucking safety debate are skewed towards a minority of the sector, a leading freight academic argues.

The misconception unbalances arguments surrounding potential innovations, such as ‘operator licensing’, as it focuses on the hire and reward (H&R) component, at 43 per cent of vehicles, and ignores the 57 per cent owned and operated by the ancillary sector, Dr Kim Hassall says.

Operator licensing this year gained Australian Logistics Council backing and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has spoken in its favour.

Hassall, however, is unconvinced the issue has been understood fully or the context examined thoroughly, and believes the H&R segment has been tackled disproportionately.

He notes that driver deaths per sector between 2003 and 2012 were split 49.2 per cent to ancillary and 50.8 per cent to H&R, according to Safe Work Australia statistics.

"What the report showed was that the driver deaths were not overwhelmingly from the hire and reward sector but very much evenly spread across both the ancillary and hire and reward sectors, almost a 50:50 split," Hassall says.

"At least for drivers, the hire and reward sector was no more dangerous than the ancillary sector.

"So why then would anyone want to impose ‘operator licensing’ on the hire and reward sector in isolation when the ancillary sector is just as dangerous?

"The answer obviously does not lie with the safety argument."  

Given that H&R vehicles travel many more kilometres than ancillary vehicles, he believes the ancillary safety performance is ‘woeful’ in comparison and needs to be addressed before operator licensing progresses any further.

A high profile intervention in the recent debate was made by James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the UK Freight Transport Association, but Hassall points to the disparity between the geography and industry between the UK and Australia.

Hassall also questions how the NHVR would be able collect a levy on ancillary vehicles if they were included in operator licensing and whether state governments would have the resources to do so if not.


Read the full take on this view of operator licensing in the next issue of ATN.

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