Opinion: Trucking keeps Australia going

By: Ben Maguire

Much done, but more still to do as the new year rolls in

Opinion: Trucking keeps Australia going
Ben Maguire


As 2018 comes to an end, it’s time to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to what we can influence in the year ahead.

2018 was a big year for the trucking industry, seeing preparations for changes to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and road user charges, the release of the new Master Industry Code of Practice and a review into the process for issuing over size/over mass truck permits; issues the Australian Trucking Association and our member associations proudly advocated for.

The technology conversation has also dominated the media, though there is a lot to clarify before we impose too much change on an industry sceptical of regulation.

But that’s not all we advocated for. On behalf of the industry, we called for improved and more frequent heavy vehicle rest areas, upgraded truck driver licensing and mandated autonomous emergency braking. Keen to support the backbone of our industry, the drivers, we also stood up to the ATO when it tried to remove deductions for meal allowances.

These are real issues that our operators are dealing with every day. The whole team at the ATA feels a sense of duty to stand up and ensure these matters are resolved.

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2018 was also a big year for the ATA. We kick-started the redesign of our Volvo ATA Safety Truck, hacked driver fatigue, welcomed a new generation of leaders in the Daimler Truck and Bus Future Leaders’ Forum and joined a hay run to deliver goods to drought-affected communities.

Now the holiday season is upon us and for many it is a time of peace and relaxation, but for the trucking industry, it’s the busiest period of the year.

Truck drivers and operators play a crucial role in delivering the goods that make Christmas special.

Thanks to the dedicated men and women who take time away from their families, people across the country can enjoy gifts, decorations, sparkling lights and a Christmas feast; all of which were on a truck at some stage.

That’s why it’s crucial we have the appropriate facilities and heavy vehicle rest areas in place to help them do their job. Austroads says that toilets, lights and water are ‘desirable’ and not a requirement.

We say that’s not good enough.

I’ve camped out at some of these rest areas and can confidently say the standard of rest areas must be improved to give drivers the respect they deserve and allow them to meet fatigue requirements.

We have many things to look forward to as we head into 2019, particularly the review of the HVNL.

For a long time, trucking owners and operators have told the ATA and our members the current legislation is not fit for purpose and is causing major headaches. The planned review needs to start from scratch and focus on prescriptive fatigue law hours, tolerances for electronic work diaries and road access approvals.

For example, some trucking operators are facing delays of 80 to 100 days for route permit approvals. The current legislation is not fit for purpose. Nor is the current state of heavy vehicle road charges.

Our legislators must do better.

Hard working trucking business are being unfairly charged and it must come to an end. The ATA welcomes the reform and supports the creation of an independent price regulator for truck registration and road user charges, providing it is also responsible for regulating toll roads.

Australia has the fifth largest freight task in the world, with our 50,000 trucking operators contributing $40 billion of revenue to the Australian economy each year.

The trucking industry is vital to our economy. The ATA has long expressed this to our federal leaders and with an election looming ahead, will continue to do so.

If we are going to be competitive on a global platform, it’s important we have a stable government focused on legislation that will benefit the industry. No matter which party wins the votes at the polls, the ATA is committed to building positive relationships.

The ATA’s priority is to ensure the trucking industry remain safe, professional and viable. However, this is not something we can do on our own.

We are committed to working with our members, operators, the regulator, police, government and the Transport Workers Union to ensure a sustainable future.

Because without trucks, Australia stops.

Ben Maguire is CEO of the Australian Trucking Association

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