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TWU lambasts draft industry code of practice

Union says neither draft code nor HVNL tackle unsafe contractual pressures


The draft Master Registered Industry Code of Practice will be flawed as a safety instrument if implemented, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) tells the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

In a submission on draft code that is backed by Australian Trucking Association (ATA), of which the TWU is a member, and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and for which the NHVR is undertaking consultation, the TWU argues the draft code has flaws similar to those of the National Heavy Vehicle Law (NHVL).

The union argues that “the voluntary code is not equipped to address the fundamental, root cause of why the transport industry is in crisis.

“It is not capable of removing the economic incentives that apply supply chain and contractual pressures in the first place.

“Therefore, and fundamentally, [the HVNL does] not address the economics of the transport industry and nor therefore, can or does the proposed voluntary code.”

 Read how the draft master code gained financial support here

It points to the Macquarie University study, Regulating the Work Health Safety of Australia Road Freight Transport Drivers, of January 2017, which states that, following the abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) in 2016, there is currently “no regulatory mechanism that can eliminate existing incentives for overly tight scheduling, unpaid work, and rates that are effectively below cost recovery.”  

The proposed code’s voluntary nature is rejected, with the union pointing to the National Transport Commission’s 2008 review, Remuneration & Safety in the Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry, that says “voluntary schemes lacked the coverage and influence to bring about overall change in safety-related work practices in the trucking industry”.

The union also criticises the ability of the code if implemented to be used as part of a defence in legal proceedings.

“This is a double blow – a code lacking meaningful provisions which doubles as a means to assist in avoiding liability in respect of behaviour and practices that the provisions have failed to modify,” the submission states.

TWU acting national secretary Michael Kaine insists any new development must be enforceable to be effective and aimed along the chain of responsibility beyond freight transport.

“This is not the time for voluntary codes, this not the time for weak, ineffectual guidelines,” Kaine says.

“People are dying on our roads because of pressure in transport.

“Truck drivers are being killed and injured, making the job Australia’s deadliest.

“We have endemic underpayment of drivers, chronically fatigued drivers who are pushed to drive long hours and speed, faulty trucks on our roads, and transport operators barely keeping their heads above water.

“What we need is legally enforceable change to tackle these problems at the point that they begin: with the wealthy retailers and manufacturers right at the top of the transport supply chain.”

ALC interim CEO Lachlan Benson s quick to defend the draft code,noting the amount of work that had gone into it.

“The Master Code has been jointly developed by ALC and the ATA following an extensive program of engagement with industry participants and stakeholder groups, which has lasted for more than a year,” Benson says.

“During that time, there have been numerous opportunities for industry stakeholders to have input on the Master Code’s content, at major events run by both ALC and the ATA, as well as through individual consultations with the code developers.”



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