This chapter considers other key issues discussed during the course of the committee’s inquiry. One prominent theme raised by various stakeholders in the road transport sector was the role and future of new technologies as a means to improve safety and productivity. Overall, there was a high level of support for such technologies, particularly for addressing fatigue. However, the committee heard of a number of concerns regarding the integration of new technology into the road transport sector, such as the cost impost on operators and privacy concerns. This chapter considers the use of high productivity vehicles that maximise freight productivity, environmental performance and safety, and the future of automation.
The operation and viability of the cash-in-transit transport sector was also explored during the inquiry and is covered in this chapter. In particular, the importance of establishing industry standards and the application of consistent, liveable award wages across the sector.
Finally, the chapter considers the road transport sector’s calls for a federal Minister for Transport to act as a conduit for the facilitation and implementation of the necessary changes identified in this report, as well as providing an avenue for ongoing advocacy and national coordination of the industry as a whole.
New technologies have the potential to increase the safety and productivity of the road transport industry and improve its environmental footprint. However, inherent features of the industry have resulted in a relatively slow take-up of technologies.
Owner-drivers and small businesses, which numerically dominate the industry, in many cases do not have the resources to invest in emerging technologies. Toll Group observed that governments, mindful of the impost on small businesses, have delayed decisions to mandate the adoption of technologies, even when 'benefits clearly outweigh costs'. The impact of this, according to Toll Group, is:
Firstly, good operators who invest in new technologies are penalised as they are often undercut on price by those who don’t invest in safety, and secondly the social licence for the industry to operate is eroded through the public’s perception of aged, dangerous trucks.
The Truck Industry Council (TIC), the peak body representing manufacturers and distributors of heavy vehicles, concluded that the time had come to act with regards to the environmental impacts of the industry:
Australia is at a point in time where there is justifiable public concern regarding the need for Government to take action to improve road safety outcomes and to minimise the adverse health effects to Australians from vehicular pollution by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and noxious emissions.
TIC submitted that with an average truck age of 14.8 years, the 'undeniable truth is that Australia has an old truck fleet', which does not utilise the 'new era of safety features such as Electronic Stability Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking Systems and Lane Keep Assist Systems'. Furthermore, TIC contended that 42 per cent of the fleet lacked 'any modern truck safety features' such as anti-lock braking or stability control or even emission controls. The Australian Trucking Association told the committee that it was working with the federal infrastructure department 'to adapt international standards for the Australian trailer fleet'.
Mr Peter Anderson, chief executive officer of the Victorian Transport Association, contended that while the technological innovation in new heavy vehicles was 'outstanding', safety features were used by manufacturers as ephemeral 'marketing leverage' rather than promoting industry safety standards.
Similarly, Engineers Australia, noting that 'you can get five-star rated vehicles in virtually every category of the market' asked 'once you accept that a vehicle is a workplace and a road is a workplace—and by law it is in almost all states—why do we permit employers to send someone out in a two- or three-star rated vehicle if a five-star rated one is available in the same price category?'
The Transport Accident Commission and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons submitted that the delay between a proven safety technology being available in the marketplace and becoming mandated by the Australian Design Rules was 'unacceptable'. The Transport Accident Commission noted that technologies to be mandated for trucks in EU countries in 2021 included fatigue and distraction warnings, speed limit compliance devices, reversing sensors, accident data recorders and devices to remove blind spots and detect and warn of vulnerable road users.
Mr Adam Gosling advocated the use of real time tyre inflation pressure monitoring systems, noting that there were no legislative requirements regarding heavy vehicle tyre inflation, 'even for the high performance PBS trucks'.
Linfox called for Australian government 'support and pathways for the development and commercialisation of these technologies to help manufacturers and fuel suppliers be ready and viably roll out these solutions'.
Inquiry participants principally provided comment on two aspects of new technologies in the road transport industry, telematics (and fatigue monitoring in particular) and high productivity vehicles. Discussion of electronic work diaries can be found in Chapter 4.
Telematics is the transmission of computerised information about a vehicle (for a vehicle fleet) over long distances. In the road transport industry telematics can be used to produce accurate road usage information to assist governments and road managers to understand traffic volumes, freight movements and vehicle stop locations and inform policy and investment decisions. Road authorities can use telematics technology as an investigative tool for chain of responsibility or to monitor the use of restricted access networks. Telematics can be used by companies to promote safety through monitoring driver speed and fatigue and to identify business inefficiencies.
The committee was informed of a number of applications of the technologies for the road transport industry. The Australian Logistics Council advised the committee that for around $2500, hardware can be obtained that provides:
compliance with NHVAS mass, maintenance and fatigue modules;
electronic work diaries and electronic fit for duty declarations;
integration with on board weighing systems, electronic braking systems, transport/freight management systems, distraction monitoring services and cameras;
applications to calculate fuel tax credits, location and speed monitoring services, trailer tracking and driver navigation services; and
assistance in fuel management and the production of engine information.
Toll Group submitted that it had introduced a 'back to base' speed monitoring system in 2013 and that after the first three years of operation, 'the percentage of vehicles recording moderate speeding events fell from 23.23 per cent down to 6.55 per cent'.
Mr Adam Woltanski, Director of Pacific Telematics, described the use of telematics to monitor trailers in real time, including load and lateral movement. The technology has the potential to predict rollovers, map and warn drivers of hazards and assist in accident investigations and has found particular applications in the logging industry.
Mr McCrone, secretary of Victorian Tippers United, suggested that telematics could play a part in helping drivers that are payed hourly to establish the exact time required to undergo a task and therefore ensure proper payment:
Our members have got no issue, if they're being paid properly, with installing telematics systems in their trucks so they're being tracked. It's not our preferred solution, but, if it comes to that and we're being paid properly, we've got no problem with that. In fact, in some ways it might help us. You might get back from a job and they have a go at you: 'Why did you take so long?' You might say the traffic was such and such, and there was a problem at the tip. If you're on GPS, you can say, 'Look. Here I was, parked up at the tip, waiting to get unloaded.'
The Queensland Trucking Association pointed to some technologies that in its view could improve freight operations including:
real time traffic information communication to GPS services and UHF radio;
installation of UHF cut-in systems on locomotives to enhance level crossing safety by broadcasting warning to motorists;
freight priority systems to improve all traffic flow; and
warning systems for heavy vehicles in high risk situations.
In July 2018 the National Transport Commission published its review of heavy vehicle telematics in which it observed that despite the advantages of the technologies, uptake was low. It suggested that the adoption of technologies could be accelerated through awareness campaigns, fast tracking of technologies into vehicle standards, updating government fleets, technology trials and a range of regulatory and productivity financial incentives.
The Queensland Trucking Association argued that due to the cost burden on operators with tight margins, the market should decide when application of the technology was appropriate.
Australian Industry Standards, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and Toll Group advocated in favour of the mandatory uptake of telematics on the grounds of safety and competitive neutrality. Toll argued that mandatory telematics achieved a level playing field in that all operators must recoup the money invested from customers through higher prices. It added that 'responsible operators do not overload vehicles, run without permits or flout speed and fatigue regulations, leaving them at a competitive disadvantage'.
ALC further argued for the standardisation and sharing of data collected, specifically standards to 'track and trace freight through the supply chain'. ALC alerted the committee to the National Location Register pilot program of the National Freight Data Hub which shared locations of truck rest areas, roadhouses and toilet facilities as well as a range of other facilities such as warehouses and distribution centres.
Fatigue monitoring technology allows employers to actively manage and support the condition of drivers on the road. Mr Scott Finemore, general manager of Ron Finemore Transport, described the operation of the technology to the committee:
It's a machine that is fitted in the cab of the truck where the driver sits. It uses infrared technology based on algorithms to measure the driver's face movements. If the face movements identify fatigue and/or distraction … it sends off an alarm … and the seat vibrates. That alerts the driver that he's had an event. The camera engages and that gets sent to the monitoring centre. The monitoring centre identify, based on the algorithm and the length of time, whether the driver has had an event [and an] email automatically gets sent to our operations centre.
The transport operator is then able to contact and query the driver to ascertain if the driver can continue.
The National Transport Commission, in its review of heavy vehicle telematics, found that 'fatigue and drowsiness detection devices may prevent between four and 10 per cent of fatal crashes, reduce the severity of injuries and achieve cost savings up to $28 million'.
Inquiry participants were generally enthusiastic about the adoption of fatigue monitoring technology. To Mr Scott Finemore it was 'a huge and positive game changer in improving fatigue management and road safety'. Mr Gary Mahon, chief executive officer of the Queensland Trucking Association, described it as a 'silver bullet' and equated the magnitude of its adoption for road safety alongside random breath testing and speed cameras.
The advantages of seeing-eye machines over prescriptive logbook diary systems were manifest to Mr Mark Collins, vice president of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland:
Obviously, that technology has got be proven, in my opinion, to make sure that it is reliable and is doing the job it says it's doing. But, initially, with fatigue, we all know you can come back to work after a couple of weeks off and be fatigued in the first two hours of work sitting behind the wheel. A work docket is not going to tell you to pull up at that point, whereas a seeing machine will give you an alert to say that you have a fatigue episode going on.
The unexpected nature of fatigue was verified by the experience of Toll Group, which reported that after installing over 1400 Driver State Sensing (DSS) devices in its heavy vehicle fleet:
Toll’s data suggests that most of our fatigue-related incidents happen in the early part of the journey, or early part of a particular leg of the journey. This runs counter to many long-held views in the industry and questions whether our ‘fitness for duty’ standards are enough.
Toll reported that in-cab warnings had 'resulted in a 66 per cent reduction in fatigue events, however when this was combined with real-time provision of direct feedback a 95 per cent reduction was achieved'. Since implementing the DSS system there have been no truck rollovers in its line haul business.
In a note of caution, the Transport Workers' Union asserted that using technological solutions to detect fatigue could not be a substitute for addressing factors that caused transport workers to drive while tired:
An excessive reliance on technologies to improve safety is in turn detracting from the key determinants (rates, work pressure and contracting practices) of poor safety outcomes in the transport sector and leading to misguided safety management practices. Indeed, technology gives the illusion that the problem of fatigue is being addressed when in reality it can be entirely ignored.
Several witnesses were uncomfortable with the surveillance aspect of the in-vehicle cameras used for fatigue management. To driver Mr Kelvin Cootes, cameras were 'a straight-out breach of privacy' and 'a workplace bullying tool for the employees'. Mr Tim Dawson, secretary of the WA branch of the Transport Workers' Union suggested:
There needs to be some sort of code of conduct in Australia about how these companies use these cameras––or change legislation; one of the two. This telematics and technology in trucks are no doubt making the transport industry safer; I'm not saying it doesn't; but we need to make sure that it's either used for training or safety, not for disciplinary'.
Mr Woltanski stated that in order to increase acceptance of telematics technologies, they should be used to reward good behaviour rather than to punish drivers. Drivers also needed to be made aware that the technology would ultimately be there to protect them.
Driver Mr Kean Austin saw an advantage in fatigue monitoring technology in increasing flexibility for driver fatigue management. For example, where a driver had 20 minutes left on their logbook but wanted to stop in a roadhouse 40 minutes away, Mr Kean said that the cameras could help to assess that the driver was fit and well to continue driving.
Ms Sharon Middleton, president of the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), commented on the cultural change that her company had to undergo when it first installed the Guardian seeing-eye machine within its long-distance fleet. She noted that her current team of drivers was 'extremely grateful that they have got it on board' and that it gives her and her operations people 'peace of mind'. Her colleague Mr Steven Shearer, executive officer with SARTA, added:
I'm aware of quite a few companies that have introduced that system or similar systems. In almost every case, a small number of their drivers have triggered the system and they've been shocked when they were shown the video that showed they were actually having a micro-sleep that they didn't know they were having.
The lack of driver awareness of micro-sleeps was confirmed by fatigue monitoring technology company Smart Cap Technologies, which submitted that 'an individual's ability to self-assess fatigue risk is insufficient to prevent microsleeps and subsequent accidents'. The company added that with early intervention, in most cases drivers could complete journeys without affecting delivery times.
Mr Damien Scheidel, managing director of corporate logistics at ALDI Australia, told the committee that ALDI's transport fleet had a telematics fleet management tool installed to assist with fatigue management. The company further submitted:
The in-vehicle driver information will allow our team to plan their work and rest and act when alerted to an imminent or actual breach. The system will also help manage driver performance and allow us to proactively address any poor performance or safety risks behind the wheel.
Mr Shearer also remarked that in addition to keeping drivers 'safe on that day on that road', the other advantage the technology offered transport companies was 'they can begin to identify patterns that might emerge that might lead to changes in schedules'.
A number of stakeholders remarked on the cost of the technology. Mr Dean O'Brien, commercial manager at O'Brien Transport Services, was in favour of incentives such as tax relief to companies to retrofit fatigue technology in all trucks:
At the moment that's not being set by legislation; it's being set by the customers and their expectations … We would put them in all our trucks tomorrow if we had some assistance because it's a huge cost.'
Owner driver Mr Frank Arcidiaco could see the applicability of the technology to larger fleets but stated that the 'extra costs on owner-operators would be unbelievable'. For owner-operators, 'when pressures are put on—and we're price takers, not price makers—if you're not earning enough to look after your family and to look after things, it doesn't matter what sort of thing you put in place; it's going to be abused, for the simple fact of surviving'.
While the issue of cost remained unresolved, the question of mandating the technology split some stakeholders. Mrs Jan Cooper, chief executive officer of the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Western Australia supported fatigue monitoring technologies as long as they were voluntary and were not required in order to access certain roads. The Australian Trucking Association supported the implementation of fatigue and distraction detection technologies by 2025 provided the devices had proven benefits, were implemented as part of a system to improve safety outcomes, and costs did not create a barrier for small operators to participate.
Mr Mark Mazza, chief executive officer of the transport company South West Express, was more categorical in his assessment:
We no longer see it as a tool; we see it as an obligatory part of running our business. It's already saved us at least two, maybe three, rollovers. I think the technology for the industry needs to be mandated. I know a lot of truck drivers don't like it. I know a lot of transport companies think it's too expensive. But, honestly, as a safety mitigator, it is an absolute must.
In 2019–20 the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) trialled fatigue and distraction detection technologies to determine how best to encourage industry uptake. After interviews with drivers, owners and other stakeholders using or providing these technologies, the NHVR reported trial participants believed that the technology 'will profoundly reduce the frequency of fatigue and distraction events while driving'. The NHVR also reported that both 'company representatives and drivers emphasised the critical importance of developing a genuine partnership between governments and industry to actively encourage and support the widespread adoption of fatigue and distraction detection technologies.'
Future challenges for the adoption of the technology included the industry preference for technologies that 'identify unsafe fatigue and/or distraction events alerts rather than approaches based on continuous surveillance' and the development of effective and workable standards for their use under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). The NHVR report recommendations included:
that the NHVR and industry encourage road freight and passenger operators to invest in fatigue and distraction detection technology 'as an integral element of their fatigue risk management system'; and
the HVNL be amended 'to recognise and support the use of fatigue and distraction detection device technology to provide for greater flexibility and safety in hours of work management'.
The report also advocated for the collection and use of data obtained from fatigue and distraction device technologies to be used to identify the most effective use of the technologies and eliminate high risk fatigue-related activities.
The NHVR submitted that the regulatory framework needed to provide 'incentives and flexibility to support industry participants who invest in safety systems and technologies and proportionate deterrents for those who choose to actively disregard their safety obligations'. Furthermore, the NHVR stated that the framework should not 'mandate a particular type of technology that compromises market opportunities; rather it should be outcome focused'.
High productivity vehicles
High productivity vehicles (HPVs) are high efficiency, innovative vehicles designed to maximise freight productivity, environmental performance and safety. High performance vehicles are assessed by the NHVR under the Performance-based Standards (PBS) Scheme, to ensure that they are fit for use for specific freight tasks on appropriate road networks. The objectives of the scheme, as described by the National Transport Commission, include 'limiting the number of vehicles on Australian roads, lowering carbon emissions, reducing operator costs, and improving road safety'.
Western Australia and the Northern Territory have their own vehicle and route assessment and permit schemes, with the Northern Territory offering as-of-right access to HPVs across its network. CBH Group noted that the Western Australian system 'provides for increased combination lengths (longer than East Coast combinations) and more flexible road access arrangements'.
The PBS fleet in 2019–20 comprised 10 693 combinations (a 19 per cent increase on 2018–19) and 25 585 vehicles (an increase of 21 per cent). PBS combination approvals have doubled in the past five years. The NHVR gazetted 17 new road networks for use by PBS vehicles in 2019–20.
Inquiry participants informed the committee of the advantages of high productivity vehicles. Mr Gary Mahon of the Queensland Trucking Association, pointed to Australia's large geography and decentralised and distributed population to argue for high productivity vehicles to be used 'to unlock productivity across the country' by making tonne-kilometres 'as efficient as we possibly can'. Mr Mahon argued that reducing the number of truck trips helped the industry to remain competitive:
When you look at something like an A-double at 30 metres versus a B-double at 26 metres, for every five B-doubles, you can do the work of four A-doubles—that's a 20 per cent lift in productivity for freight tonne-kilometres for a very small extension of length. Reduction of exposure for road safety, reducing fuel burn, reducing tyre wear and lowering our tonne-kilometre cost so that we can be more competitive in our export freight are the sorts of considerations we need to bring to commerce as well. With a growing population and a growing freight—another 26 per cent growth in the next five years or so—we need to come up with more innovative solutions.
The NHVR quantified the average productivity increase of HPVs as '15 to 30 per cent'.
Toll Group cited findings from Austroads analysis in 2014 that high productivity vehicles have 76 per cent fewer accidents, which, according to the study, results in ' an estimated saving of 96 lives and $63 million in insurance claims by 2030'. Toll Group was also one of several submitters to also extoll the environmental benefits from reduced pollution, noise and greenhouse gas emissions in using PBS vehicles, noting that:
The NTCs Regulatory Impact Statement for the PBS scheme anticipated that the emissions savings between 2011 and 2030 would be 3.75mtCO2-e reducing the number of vehicles on the road in 2030 by almost 4,500.
Submitters also pointed out that the reduced trip numbers from the utilisation of HPVs resulted in reduced infrastructure maintenance costs due to less pavement wear from and reduced congestion.
Toll Group noted that resistance to HPVs came from other road users who found the vehicles slow and difficult to overtake due to their increased size. Toll Group argued that the federal government should establish a high productivity vehicle infrastructure and education fund to facilitate the movement of HPVs on key freight routes and enhance community understanding of the safety and productivity benefits of HPVs.
Toll Group was one of a number of submitters that noted that the greatest hurdle to the uptake of HPVs was obtaining the necessary approvals from road managers, and it outlined the process and limitations as follows:
The current process to gain access to the road network is through the NHVR which must negotiate with over 400 different road managers nationally, these are primarily made up of local governments. Many of these can have limited resources, which cause delays in decision making and approvals. Access can also be restricted due to uncertainty about the weight tolerances of bridges across the network. One bridge can effectively restrict access to an entire freight route, which limits the productivity of the sector.
The Australian Trucking Association advocated reforms to access decisions under the HVNL including expanding as-of-right access and independent review of decisions, developing national service levels for vehicle access and transitioning the National Land Transport Network to a high productivity freight vehicle network.
The need for improved access for heavy vehicles to reduce inefficiencies was also emphasised by NatRoad, which argued that planning for better road infrastructure was 'in part defeated' if optimal routes were restricted or could not be used.
The Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Western Australia (LRTAWA) argued that while the industry had made significant investments in modern equipment, operators had gained little advantage, such as through increased access:
The LRTAWA is concerned about the emphasis on PBS vehicles as being a pre-eminent solution to increased productivity through vehicle configuration. A large proportion of equipment being recognised as PBS Australia wide is now obsolete in WA. The cost involved in the PBS process is prohibitive and, in most cases, restricts any PBS benefits to companies with more financial resources. This inhibits smaller operators and impinges on the level playing field.’
Submitters and witnesses also raised the freight connectivity inefficiencies brought about by the need for large vehicles to decant their loads on the outskirts of cities. Truck driver Mr Mike Williams described the process at the road train break up area at Northam in Western Australia for owner drivers:
If I'm running over there on my own I've got to go into Northam; I've got to split my road train; I've got to take my lead trailer into Perth to drop it off; if I have no-one to do my dog run, I've got to go back out and get the dog trailer and run it back in. That's an extra two truck movements for the same set of trailers and an extra couple of hours.
While large companies can manage this with additional drivers, Mr Williams asked, 'Why is that road now not gazetted so everyone from the owner-driver to the big company can have the same commercial opportunity?'
The National Transport Commission (NTC) submitted that in 2018 it had conducted a review into the PBS Scheme. The review found that the main barriers to the take-up of the PBS scheme were 'the complexity and cost of the approval process, and access uncertainty'. The NTC recommended improvements including 'a national notice to enable automatic access to a national PBS network, with a focus on key freight routes as a priority'. The NTC reported that its reform recommendations were due for implementation in June 2021 'in collaboration with Austroads, state and territory governments and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator'.
Another future technology that may have drastic impacts on the road transport sector is automation. Nationally, work has commenced to prepare for the prospect of an automated road transport fleet, through the following work programs:
The National Policy Framework for Land Transport Technology and Action Plan;
Regulatory Reforms for Automated Vehicles; and
Austroads Connected and Automated Vehicle Program.
In addition, automated vehicle trials are in place across the country, as well as national coordination through the Office of Future Transport Technology.
Various stakeholders expressed varied views about the prospect of an automated road transport sector. Transport and Logistics Centre Limited described the development and use of this technology as a ‘seismic shift’, whereas the Victorian Trucking Association questioned its future. The National Road Freighters Association spoke of dismay, should road infrastructure be improved to facilitate automation when similar improvements are not made for drivers.
Cash-in-transit transport services
Cash-in-transit (CIT) transport companies transfer cash between banks and retailers using specialised vehicles, trained guards and road crew. They also perform currency management functions, including note quality sorting and counterfeit detection.
Linfox Armaguard and Prosegur are the two major CIT providers in Australia with a market share of 80 to 90 per cent. The Reserve Bank of Australia subcontracts to Armaguard and Prosegur as approved cash centre operators. As explained by Ms Annette Carey, chief executive officer of Linfox Armaguard, 'we provide the infrastructure, the insurance, the equipment, the systems and the expertise to handle reconciliation en masse to support the banks, the cash users and the courier network'.
Ms Carey described the challenges facing the sector as 'predominantly the declining addressable market for CIT, or cash-in-transit services, significant price discounting to capture a share of that shrinking market, a lack of minimum standards across the industry and the cost of maintaining highly specialised infrastructure'.
Prosegur noted that between 2014 and 2017, 'cash payments in Australia declined by almost 7 per cent and we have one of the lowest cash usage rates of any developed country'. The transition away from cash resulted in a decline in revenue for CIT companies. Prosegur added that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had accelerated this trend and brought about 'difficult trading condition' for the industry, reducing Prosegur's income by more than 50 per cent.
Officials from the Treasury told the committee that 35 000 organisations in the road transport industry received JobKeeper from April to September 2020 with payments totalling $1.2 billion for 63 000 employees. JobKeeper payments had ceased for Linfox Armaguard in September 2020 and for Prosegur in October 2020.
The four major banks operate under a Banknote Distribution Agreement (BDA) with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). According to Ms Carey, Armaguard 'must operate within the rules' of the BDA which 'reflect a time when cash was the predominant payment method and when interest rates were high'. As indirect parties, Armaguard does ‘not have the opportunity to negotiate with the RBA directly on how the BDA can be improved to make the wholesale cash system more efficient'.
Ms Carey contended that the total 'amount of revenue that you can generate by providing CIT and related services, has dropped from about $440 million in FY 2019 to a predicted $240 million in FY 2024'. She argued that CIT providers invest heavily in infrastructure and systems required for the storage, distribution and processing of currency, a function formerly undertaken by the Reserve Bank of Australia. As Armaguard estimated its annual infrastructure costs as 'over $200 million', Ms Carey concluded that there was 'not sufficient revenue now being generated to actually support the ongoing investment in that infrastructure' and that 'the industry as a whole is quickly becoming unsustainable'.
Prosegur described how it had used product development and innovation to adjust to changes in consumer behaviour. In Prosegur's view, any measures to ensure the continued viability of the industry must not come at the expense of competition and the company 'strongly object[s] to any government intervention to move the industry towards a monopoly provision of services'.
Mr Noel Blue, a CIT driver and Transport Workers' Union delegate, told the committee that he believed that there had been a 'collapse in standards' in the industry.
Mr Blue described the entry of new players into the market—'[s]everal hundred small-operative mums and dads in the states … working their soft-skin vehicles'. In Mr Blue's view, 'the pressures in the cash-in-transit industry are the highest I've seen in three decades', with fewer guards and drivers transferring cash in non-armoured vehicles 'which don't provide protection from armed assaults'.
Mr Blue stated that while this made the job quicker and reduced costs for customers, it exposed workers and the public to risk. Furthermore, he alleged that workers subject to violent assaults in the course of their work were not receiving adequate support and that workers seeking to address safety issues had been subject to bullying and intimidation by the companies involved.
The Transport Workers' Union submitted that continued downward pressure on contracts in the CIT sector had led to 'less training for delivery personnel, less equipment, the use of older equipment, the use of older delivery vehicles, [and] less deployment of personnel to inspect delivery points before cash and [valuables] are moved'.
According to Ms Carey, there is 'no single national standard across the security industry within Australia'. Rather, CIT providers operate under a range of state and territory regulatory and industry bodies including 'state based legislation for firearms and security licensing, Comcare, various enterprise agreements and the Australian Security Industry Association Limited, ASIAL, Code of Conduct'. CIT providers must also provide protective equipment and training for employees and conduct 'site risk assessments for both work health safety compliance and security requirements'.
Ms Carey observed that the decline in cash as a payment mechanism over the last decade had resulted in 'continued bank branch closures, banks moving away from direct business deposits in branch and clients shifting their lower value cash takings to a lower cost courier model'. She argued that the '200-plus courier, low value, covert CIT operators in the industry' were likely to grow and bring with them a decline in standards as 'best practice becomes unsustainable'.
Armaguard recommended that an inquiry be conducted:
… which would enable creation of a level playing field and a national remuneration and licensing framework to ensure a more efficient and safe industry, including national accreditation of security licensing and handguns for the CIT industry, the abolition of individual jurisdictional licensing, and the introduction of minimum standards to protect CIT employees, customers and the general community.
Witnesses raised concerns about a lack of a level playing field for wages in the CIT industry. Mr Blue contended that there was a differential in wage rates across the industry:
Thanks to the union, the wages at Armaguard are high, as is appropriate considering the nature of the work—the danger that drivers are placed in and the potential for violence against them, which they face daily. However, other parts of the industry do not have wages which are comparable, including businesses such as Prosegur and the smaller CIT companies. These drivers should be paid wages in accordance with Armaguard's.
Mr Blue argued that government involvement was needed to ensure safe and sustainable rates:
The issue is beyond just any one company; these industry issues are driven by what the cash-in-transit contracts are awarded. Banks and supermarkets are the biggest cash in-transit clients. They award work to the likes of Armaguard or Prosegur, both companies that we, the guards, work for. I've seen the contracts go from one company to another—sometimes we lose them, sometimes we win them—and, when they come back, they're never the same. They come back far worse. In every cycle I've seen, the problems just outlined get worse and worse.
Prosegur maintained that the majority of its employees were engaged under enterprise bargaining agreements and that it paid all its employees 'at or above the award industrial awards in all States'. It further stated that it did not 'run loss-leading models' in Australia, nor use 'foreign profits to "subsidise" losses in Australia'.
Mr Laurie D'Apice, President, Human Resources, Linfox Logistics, suggested that the government could assist by establishing 'a cash-in-transit tribunal … looking at the floor of what the wages should be'.
Federal Minister for Transport
A major setback in the advancement of interests of the road transport sector is the absence of a dedicated Minister for Transport. This omission, and its impact on the sector, was raised by various stakeholders throughout the inquiry.
The Western Australian Transport Industry Association (WATIA) for example, argued the necessary first step by government was to create a national Minister for Transport. This dedicated Minister would then act as a conduit between all the sectors that interact with the road transport industry, such as agriculture. Its representative, Mr Campbell Dumesny, emphasised that there was no voice for the sector within government which results in:
No-one is sitting there valuing the role of the road transport industry and saying that these are critical to our communities. We just don't have a voice within government. We are fragmented across multiple departments. I come back to the point that we're a horizontal market sector. We cross every sector of the economy. We deliver everything except babies, which is our standard euphemism, you know that. But that's also reflected in government. We have no single voice championing the industry. We need one.
With reference to the complexities that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for coordination across jurisdictions, the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) also iterated the need for a dedicated Minister for Transport (and Minister for Training). Its representative, Mr Paul Ryan asked:
Where are the politicians now, when we need them to provide protection and support for the transport industry? We supported the country; give us a little bit back. Where is the minister for transport? Oh, sorry: there is no minister for transport. Where is the minister for training? Oh, there's no minister for training, at the federal level. As Professor Belzer pointed out and as Mr Kaine pointed out, there are many instances where the transport industry needs training and needs assistance in that area, but we are unable to work that through at the federal level, because there are no responsible authorities to help us. If nothing else, if nothing more comes out of this inquiry, we could at least get some basis of an apprenticeship system to move into the transport industry.
[W]e need somebody at the federal level, a minister for transport, that can deal with these issues from a transport related perspective.
A similar view was shared by Mr Warren Clark of the National Road Transport Association, who spoke of smaller sectors that have a dedicated minister, whereas the transport sector goes without:
Wouldn't it be good if we had a designated minister for transport? We've got some pretty small sectors that have designated ministers, without naming them. This is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is vital to this country. It's a big job just on its own.
Mr Peter Anderson from the Victoria Trucking Association acknowledged the transport portfolio was under the Deputy Prime Minister, but pointed out there was a real need within the industry for a central authority that traverses bureaucracies and ministerial arrangements.
Mr Andrew McKellar from the Australian Trucking Association, also acknowledged that portfolio responsibility for the transport sector is under the Deputy Prime Minister. However, Mr McKeller commented that without a dedicated federal minister:
[T]ransport responsibilities fall between what the federal government can do and what the state governments do. There are state powers and federal powers. I think short of a referral of those powers, probably to the federal government, you're not going to have a completely national approach.