Operator licensing debate splits heavy hitters

By: Steve Skinner


It looks like a new divide is forming within the Australian trucking industry, this time over the contentious issue of operator licensing

Operator licensing debate splits heavy hitters
Toll group manager for road transport compliance Sarah Jones.

 

Opposing sides are shaping up over the controversial issue of operator licensing.

In favour of operator licensing is the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and one of its prominent members, Toll. On the other hand the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has come out strongly against the concept.

In fact the ATA is warning the issue could become the "next RSRT".

Operator licensing wasn’t even on the radar just a couple of years ago, but now the national trucking regulator says it is planning to develop "standards for entry and continued operation" in the heavy vehicle industry.

Licensing means different things to different people, but does not involve a set quantity of licenses, as with taxi plates.

Toll says it’s too easy for people who don’t know what they’re doing to get into the trucking game.

"Barriers to entry (to the trucking industry) in this country are extremely low," Toll’s group manager for road transport compliance, Sarah Jones, says.

"I could wake up tomorrow morning, acquire myself a truck, get a driver, get an ABN and I am a transport company," Jones told the recent Australasian Road Safety Conference.

"I don’t have to demonstrate that I understand the law, that I’m solvent, that I have the money to maintain my vehicles, not at all.

"Australia is the only modern liberal democracy that doesn’t have an operator licensing regime.

"Nobody can tell you how many heavy vehicle operators there are; where they travel; what they cart; how they’re constituted … In that context, how do you have a meaningful safety management system?"

 

ATA opposes licensing

ATA chair Noelene Watson.

Meanwhile, fresh from a victory in the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal battle, the ATA is speaking out against licensing and the "red tape" it says would be involved.

"Now a new threat to small trucking businesses has been proposed: operator licensing," writes ATA chair Noelene Watson in her column in the November issue of ATN.

"Hire and reward trucking businesses and possibly even businesses operating trucks to support their own work would need to have a special business licence from the NHVR (National Heavy Vehicle Regulator)."

Watson warns that under the UK operator licensing system, industry associations, trade unions, local councils and planning authorities all have a legal right to object to applications.

"That’s right: your potential competitors and the union would all have a say on whether you could run your business."

Watson writes that in 2003, the National Road Transport Commission rejected operator licensing in favour of chain of responsibility, concluding that licensing was anti-competitive and heavy-handed.

Check out the full feature in the November issue of ATN. Subscribe here.

 

 

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