Setting safe and sustainable standards in the road transport industry
The heavy vehicle sector is one of the most dangerous industries in Australia, with an average of 180 deaths per year and an increasing number of hospitalisations. These workplace injuries, traumas and deaths have immense social and economic impacts on drivers, their families, businesses and the general public. The economic cost of road crashes alone equates to $27 billion per year, with approximately 1500 crashes resulting in hospitalisation and a further 11,000 crashes also leading to injuries.
Compounding these safety issues are working conditions that mean road transport drivers are more likely to experience chronically poor physical and mental health. These conditions often include long hours of work, sedentary work environments, poor nutrition, social isolation, shift work, time pressures, and fatigue. The sector also experiences higher levels of suicide than the general population.
Scrutiny of the road transport sector is largely focused upon the risk taking behaviour of drivers (such as driving whilst fatigued, drug use and speeding), and consequent enforcement mechanisms. It is the committee’s view that there are insufficient efforts to address the underlying systemic causes for such behaviour.
The underlying economic and contracting pressures are the leading causes of this safety crisis. These pressures are often caused by the major clients of the transport supply chain who set rates of pay, and the terms and conditions through tendering cycles. This behaviour has resulted in a ‘race to the bottom’ on prices. The committee calls on large companies to exercise corporate responsibility by ensuring that they do not engage operators who themselves engage, or subcontract to others that engage in unsustainable business practices. In the committee’s view the use of standard contract terms to more clearly define and manage the responsibility of parties in the supply chain is worthy of further investigation.
Without addressing structural issues across the road transport supply chain, efforts by governments, regulators and the road transport sector to improve safety will be in vain. Drivers risking their lives and wellbeing must be supported by an appropriate regulatory framework administered by an independent body, and designed to address these underlying economic and contracting pressures, with the emphasis on safe contractual rates and payments for drivers and companies, as well as safe workplace.
The committee recognises the development of an independent body must be done through direct engagement with road freight transport industry members from all jurisdictions, including small business operators and drivers.
In terms of powers and operational scope, the body should be equipped with dispute resolution powers to enforce standards across road transport supply chain participants, such as transport operators, online/on demand operations, and workers, regardless of their employment or work status.
The creation of this independent body would provide an avenue for the implementation of nationally consistent heavy vehicle laws across jurisdictions and increase efficiencies for transport operators who traverse the state borders of Australia. Specifically the committee supports legislative amendments to broaden the application of chain of responsibility to online freight matching platforms and to reinstate provisions making chain of responsibility parties deemed to comply.
Additionally, the committee sees the need for a truly national and independent body to monitor and ensure the effectiveness of chain of responsibility and to progress primary duty prosecutions through the courts.
The committee recommends that the government establishes or empowers an independent body that will, in consultation with industry, set universal and binding standards (including binding standards with respect to pay) which:
ensure the safe performance of work and eliminate unsafe economic and contracting practices; and
apply to all road transport supply chain participants, including transport operators, online/on demand operations, and workers (regardless of their employment or work status), and throughout supply chains.
The independent body shall also act as a dispute resolution body providing all road transport industry participants access to comprehensive binding dispute resolution capable of addressing all issues associated with, and general powers to resolve, disputes between some or all supply chain participants.
Safe rates of pay
The committee is concerned that the abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) has resulted in little or no regulatory protection for all commercial operators against low and incentive-based rates, which create a structural environment for unsafe work practices. An additional function of the independent body would therefore be to ensure binding standards of pay and rates, thereby addressing the strong international and Australian evidence that suggests that the remuneration of drivers and companies is a significant factor in safety outcomes.
The committee is mindful of the lessons learnt from the abolition of the RSRT encapsulated in the following comment by the Transport Workers' Union in its submission:
Owner drivers and employee drivers both suffer from client control of the transport industry. They operate in the same market doing the same work. While their remuneration systems differ in most circumstances, addressing the need for safe and sustainable rates and standards for one group and not the other would be counter-productive. It would simply shift the burden of work on to the group for which such standards were not in place.
The committee believes a nationally regulated framework of minimum pay and conditions, under the authority of an independent body, is needed to cover all workers, including employees, gig workers and independent contractors in all jurisdictions in the Australian road transport industry.
The committee also recognises the need to address the issue of unpaid wages across the road transport sector. Evidence suggests that the application of the cents per kilometre wage rate in the Long Distance Award for drivers undertaking multiple pickups and drop-offs can result in unpaid work for drivers. The committee is further concerned that paying drivers by the cents per kilometre method incentivises risky behaviour by rewarding drivers that drive the most kilometres in the shortest period of time. The committee supports all rates in the Long Distance Award being paid by the hour.
In addition, the committee believes that transport workers should be remunerated for non-driving tasks such as fuelling, vehicle checks, completing documentation, queuing time and the full time spent loading and unloading.
The committee acknowledges that there is disagreement within the industry on the provision of minimum rates and conditions for contractors. The committee recognises that any formulation of conditions and standards must follow extensive consultation with a broad spectrum of industry sectors and experts and participants.
Maximum thirty day payment terms should be standard business practice in the road transport industry, particularly for owner drivers and other small businesses.
The Payment Times Reporting Act 2020, which commenced on 1 January 2021 and 'requires large businesses and large government enterprises with an annual total income of over $100 million to publicly report on their payment terms and practices for their small business suppliers' has proven insufficient in mandating acceptable payment times.
In the committee's view, a mandatory code of conduct under the competition and consumer framework that includes payment terms could help provide the certainty to put businesses on a firm financial footing. The formation of binding industry payment terms that ensure all road transport workers and operators are paid in full upon-delivery should be a priority task of the independent body once established.
The committee recommends that the proposed initial priorities of the independent body should include to:
ensure that all workers, whether owner drivers or employee drivers, are paid for all work time, including driving and non-driving time, and that any costs or efficiency dividends associated with this change are allocated fairly throughout the supply chain;
institute a system of demurrage rates to help drivers and operators recoup costs for waiting and loading times, and that any costs or efficiency dividends associated with this change are fairly distributed through the supply chain; and
establish binding industry payment terms ensuring that all road transport workers and operators are paid in full upon-delivery.
Delivering an effective enforcement regime
Enforcement of awards
In a competitive industry there can be significant incentives to underpay wages. The committee has heard evidence of breaches by employers of the wages and conditions specified in the road transport industry awards, and the structural difficulties and disincentives for employees to pursue actions against employers.
The committee emphasises that it is vital for the Fair Work Commission and Fair Work Ombudsman to be adequately resourced to ensure that workers are being paid the award wage, and that the top of the supply chain is being brought into line with the use of enforcement penalties. Furthermore, there needs to be effective and affordable processes for workers to recover underpaid wages and entitlements when an employer refuses to mediate with an aggrieved employee.
The committee also sees value in the Fair Work Ombudsman engaging more with the road transport industry to educate employees of their rights under the award and avenues for redress, and to work alongside the independent body to support its work in establishing binding standards with respect to payments.
The committee is pleased that the Productivity Commission review of the HVNL and the NHVR supports a more risk-based approach to the enforcement of safety measures that recognises that prosecuting drivers for minor breaches is not the most effective way to achieve road safety outcomes. The committee supports the emphasis on enforcement officers increasing compliance through information and education, as expressed by the chief executive officer of the NHVR. However, the evidence presented to the inquiry from drivers and their representatives suggests that there is still some work to be done.
The committee affirms the view that that the HVNL needs to be applied consistently so that non-compliant operators cannot gain a competitive advantage. The committee supports the application of a broad range of sanctions on non-compliant operators such as increased supervision, more regular audits, and limiting their ability to operate as a heavy vehicle transporter. It also supports the introduction of incentives or benefits for those businesses who do comply.
The committee agrees that the relevant authorities need to be resourced to investigate an employer for systematic breaches and to conduct broader industry investigations. The effectiveness of a standard-setting body, as per Recommendation 1, is underpinned by a robust and adequately resourced enforcement framework to ensure compliance.
Under the proposed enforcement framework, the committee calls for government to empower registered industrial organisations, such as trade unions and employer organisations, to conduct inspections and manage enforcement through transport supply chains. To support this, the committee suggests the enforcement framework should include the power to compel all road transport supply chain parties to disclose information about their contracting networks throughout their supply chain, and that this is available to registered industrial agencies and enforcement bodies.
The committee is concerned by suggestions that the pay and conditions of road transport workers are undermined in sham contracting arrangements and that operators who are compliant with the law may be losing work to sham operators. Of additional concern to the committee is the evidence that sham contracting practices may be occurring in government construction projects.
The committee encourages workers to report sham contracting arrangements to the Australian Taxation Office.
The committee recommends that the Fair Work Ombudsman undertakes a review of independent contracting arrangements in the road transport industry with a view to uncovering arrangements that misrepresent an employment relationship as an independent contracting arrangement.
The committee notes that any effective standard-setting body must be underpinned by robust and adequately resourced enforcement mechanisms. The committee recommends that the government establishes an effective enforcement framework to ensure compliance with standards (including those established by the proposed independent standards-setting body) by:
providing industrial and road enforcement agencies with dedicated enforcement frameworks and resources;
providing the Fair Work Ombudsman with resources to conduct a review of independent contracting arrangements in the road transport industry in order to eliminate sham-contracting;
providing the capacity for registered industrial organisations, such as trade unions and employer organisations, to carry out inspections and enforcement through transport supply chains; and
compelling all road transport supply chain parties to disclose information about their contracting networks throughout their supply chain and provide such information to registered industrial agencies and enforcement bodies.
Education, licensing and training
The committee agrees that more proactive measures need to be taken to ensure that road transport workers have a safe and healthy workplace, and is persuaded that mandatory safety induction training would assist in reducing workplace injury and death.
The committee also supports the establishment of national standards aimed at ensuring the financial and organisational capacity of operators to manage workplace safety. The committee is mindful that any national safety standards should minimise as much as possible the cost and red tape imposed on operators.
The committee agrees that a central compliance and accreditation portal could reduce administrative costs and increase efficiency in the road transport industry. However, the format and utility of such a resource may depend on the outcome of changes to accreditation and assurance schemes in the HVNL, currently under active consideration by the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers' Meeting. The committee encourages the NHVR to consult with industry on whether there is a case for expanding the business information it makes available on company compliance and accreditation. It further supports efforts by the NHVR to lift auditor training qualifications.
The committee sees significant benefit in the expansion of the Transport Education Audit Compliance Health Organisation’s BlueCard system as a means to introduce a standardised and universal safety induction unit for the road transport sector. The BlueCard system is currently not compulsory meaning some road transport workers receive no induction training upon their commencement in the industry, or are subject to multiple variants of training modules that are meaningless. The application of a BlueCard system that is standardised, universal and compulsory will improve accessibility, reduce training costs across the sector and lift the quality of training. This measure must also be supported by a skills passport that enables road transport workers to record safety induction and training credentials.
National Heavy Vehicle Competency Framework
Evidence received suggests that three and a half years after its report into aspects of road safety, there remains some way to go in implementing a single national competency-based scheme for heavy vehicle licence training. The lack of a national system of agreed, transferable qualifications for heavy vehicle trainers is an ongoing concern.
The committee notes that phase three of the Austroads review is due to report on an exemplar licensing framework and training and assessment materials in August 2022. In the committee's view, this review, which commenced in 2017, has been far too protracted.
The committee urges the government to put national heavy vehicle training on the agenda of the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers' Meeting as a matter of urgency.
The road transport industry is disadvantaged by low levels of education and training which undermine efforts to increase heavy vehicle safety and productivity and provide the workforce needed to meet the projected increases in the freight task.
The declining take-up of formal VET driver operations qualifications strongly suggests to the committee that the current offerings do not confer sufficient benefits on either participants or employers.
The industry has emphasised the need for connected pathways starting from school leavers engaged on pre-driving, fork-lift and maintenance tasks in sheds and leading to comprehensive training on the full range of requirements placed on drivers under the heavy vehicle national law.
While opinions on the preferred training model and curriculum vary, there is strong support for more practical, hands-on training under the tutorage of experienced drivers. The committee therefore proposes the government, in conjunction with industry and state and territory jurisdictions, develop a national apprenticeship training program leading to VET qualifications that combine work experience, structured and supported on-the-job training and formal learning.
The committee supports co-investment from industry and government to fund education and training in the road transport industry. This should be a task of the independent body once established.
Young trainees, women and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Stakeholders have been clear that a combination of poor perceptions of the industry and practical barriers continue to deter young people and women embarking on careers in the industry. The adoption of a national, competency-based licensing framework may go some way towards shortening the time required for skilled applicants to progress through vehicle classes.
The committee is persuaded of the value in re-establishing forklift driving as a career entry point for 16 to 18 year olds. While the safety of young people is paramount, the committee acknowledges that young people currently operate other potentially dangerous equipment, including cars. The committee recommends that safe work agencies consult with industry to provide supervised and competency-based instruction for young people to operate forklifts in order to make this an important industry training pathway.
The popularity of training programs aimed specifically at women indicates to the committee that there is a need for targeted programs that provide training for women in a safe, supportive environment. The committee endorses the government developing a program in partnership with industry that provides financial incentives for road transport businesses to provide traineeships for young people, women and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The committee acknowledges the various challenges facing the road transport industry arising from a failure to provide universal licensing and training credentials and to support pathways for young and underrepresented road transport workers. The committee recommends that the government works with state and territory governments (in consultation with relevant registered organisations of employers and workers) to:
introduce a standardised, universal and compulsory safety induction unit for the road transport sector;
introduce an industry skills passport for recording these and all other induction and training credentials;
expedite the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers’ Meeting consideration of the Austroads review of the Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework and licensing arrangements and implements the results as a priority;
develop a national apprenticeship scheme for the road transport industry;
work with Safe Work Australia and in consultation with industry representatives, to develop safe strategies for enabling 16 to 18 year old’s to train on forklifts; and
implement incentive program for businesses that attract young trainees, women and people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the industry.
Investigations, research and data collection
The committee is concerned at the continued high numbers of crashes involving rigid trucks and the sharp increase in deaths of drivers in 2019. Heavy vehicle road safety is a complex and multifaceted issue involving the interplay between vehicle design, the fitness and fatigue of the driver, the degree to which the driver is subject to time and financial pressures, and the state of the road and weather conditions.
In order to gain further insight into the causes of heavy vehicle incidents, the committee agrees that industry would benefit from more thorough investigation and analysis aimed at increasing the understanding of the contributing factors, including through the chain of responsibility, and from making continuous improvement to the safety of the road transport industry. The committee supports expanding the powers of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to discharge these functions, and to ensure that any investigations undertaken by the ATSB are independent and guided by no-blame investigation principles.
A vital element to a holistic understanding of the causes of heavy vehicles accidents is the recognition that commercial vehicle crashes are workplace accidents. Any considerations of safety and sustainability in the road transport industry must take into account not only collisions on roads, but also the issues of workplace hazards and driver health. Treating such incidents as workplace accidents, would allow an ATSB investigation to improve the data collection on the incident and better consider the causation of such workplace accidents and illnesses for both employees and owner drivers across all jurisdictions.
More broadly, the committee is concerned that much of the understanding of work health and safety in the industry derives from workers’ compensation data, and this may be obscuring important work health and safety issues for other industry participants such as independent contractors. The committee urges the government to review its data collection methods to better inform work health and safety policy for all drivers.
The committee acknowledges the importance of ensuring that robust investigatory, reporting and data collection systems are established in the road transport sector. The committee recommends that the government:
expands the powers of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to carry out independent, no-blame safety investigations of road crashes involving commercial heavy vehicles;
ensures all commercial vehicle crashes are recognised, treated and investigated as workplace accidents; and
improves data collection on the incidence and causation of work injuries and illness for both employees and owner drivers across jurisdictions.
Road infrastructure and driver facilities
The need for government investment in critical road infrastructure to meet growing road freight requirements is an area of key interest among stakeholders. In both urban and rural contexts, inquiry participants expressed their frustration at the lack of understanding of heavy vehicle and road freight infrastructure requirements by road authorities and city planners. The committee urges the government to formalise a consultative mechanism to involve industry stakeholders when road infrastructure is being designed and built.
In addition to supporting the development of guidelines to inform heavy vehicle-friendly urban design, the committee agrees that the government needs to provide ongoing, dedicated funding to bring freight roads in rural and regional Australia to a standard that supports heavy vehicle access.
The committee notes that 'smarter and targeted infrastructure' has been recognised by all Australian governments as a priority area for coordinated government and industry action as part of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy adopted in August 2019. The committee pleased to see that the identified outcomes of the Strategy include improving regional freight links and advancing 'heavy vehicle road reform to facilitate efficient investment in infrastructure'. The committee supports the commitment under the Strategy to develop nationally consistent service-level standards for roads in all jurisdictions, and encourages the government to ensure those standards are delivered for federally funded projects.
The safety of roads themselves is an ongoing concern of inquiry participants and the committee encourages the government to continue to invest in effective low cost safety infrastructure. It further supports the findings of the Joint Select Committee on Road Safety aimed at improving the Australian Road Assessment Program star rating of roads.
Rest areas and truck stops
The committee finds it unacceptable that the industry is legislatively required to adhere to a national fatigue management framework while the necessary infrastructure, in the form of rest stops, is not being provided. Furthermore the committee is disappointed that access to basic sanitary needs continues to be an impediment to women participating fully in the transport industry labour force.
The committee supports increased federal government investment in the design and construction of designated heavy vehicle rest stops as an integral part of all new road projects and upgrades. The committee agrees with stakeholders on the need for a national rest area standard to ensure that they deliver appropriate facilities, and a national strategy to guide implementation.
The committee acknowledges that the industry is the best judge of its own needs. The committee calls on federal, state and territory governments to facilitate working groups of industry representatives, and in particular truck drivers, to advise on policies on the design and location of new and upgraded roadside facilities. This should be supported by a broader public education campaign, explaining and demonstrating why such facilities should be reserved for the use of heavy vehicles only.
Safety and informal truck stops
As demonstrated in this report, the use of informal truck stops has evolved out of necessity in rural and regional areas. To formalise these locations, the committee calls for the government to establish a project to map, assess, maintain and upgrade freight road stops to meet the minimum frequency and quality of heavy vehicle rest areas contained in the national guidelines. Further, funding should be allocated for installation of low-cost safety infrastructure at such sites, such as rumble strips, green reflectors to alert drivers of suitable heavy vehicle locations to stop, wider medians and improved road shoulders.
Heavy vehicle amenities
The committee appreciates that heavy vehicle cabins are the workplace for drivers and that when used as a place for sleep, should be designed to provide adequate space and comfort to support the wellbeing of drivers. It also recognises that the sleep environment of drivers impacts on the effectiveness of the national fatigue management framework and the safety of Australia's roads.
In the committee's view, regulatory dimension limits for heavy vehicles should not be providing fleet owners with disincentives to provide appropriate working conditions for drivers. The committee supports increasing vehicle dimensions in the regulations to allow for better cabin facilities.
The committee further supports the principle that ventilation systems for sleep need to be suitable for the climatic zones in which drivers work.
Road and port access charges
While the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been monitoring port fees and competition between stevedores, the government needs to take action to regulate landside port charges to limit the impact on transport and logistics companies, importers and exporters. Action is also required on the lack of regulation of toll fares and the penalising of truck drivers not using toll roads.
To address these matters, the committee supports the government establishing an independent national regulator tasked with setting commercial vehicle charges, including toll road and port charges.
The committee recognises the importance that road infrastructure and driver facilities have in delivering a safe, sustainable and productive road transport sector. The committee recommends that the government:
develops a set of national guidelines for town planners regarding road envelopes and other factors required to facilitate efficient and safe road-based logistics support in metropolitan areas;
identifies priority roads for dedicated and targeted road funding partnerships with relevant jurisdictions to improve the star rating performance of road infrastructure for all road users;
adopts national guidelines for the design and placement of heavy vehicle rest areas for major highways and significant freight routes;
work with all states and territories to mandate heavy vehicle only rest areas;
supports a public education campaign that demonstrates why heavy vehicle drivers must have access to designated rest areas;
increase the allowable vehicle and combination dimensions for heavy vehicles to allow for additional driver amenities;
establishes a national fund to assess, maintain and upgrade freight road in rural and regional areas, to meet the minimum frequency and quality of heavy vehicle rest areas contained in the national guidelines and to support the rolling out of low-cost safety infrastructure such as rumble strips, green reflectors, wider medians and improved road shoulders; and
establishes an independent national regulator to set commercial vehicle charges including toll road and port charges.
Technological innovation and automation
There is a high level of support among stakeholders for the use of technology to improve safety and productivity outcomes in the road transport sector, particularly in the management of driver fatigue. While industry has invested significantly in technologies to keep drivers safe, the committee notes the shortfall in the take-up among small to medium sized businesses due to the cost of installation.
The committee supports the government providing financial incentives to increase the use of telematics technologies in the road freight transport sector, particularly for small operators. However use of this technology must meet strict guidelines designed to protect drivers’ privacy and not be utilised for performance management and disciplinary purposes.
More broadly, the committee is supportive of a review of legislative and regulatory systems to prepare the sector for the emergence of automation to ensure that any associated risks and challenges posed by this technology are effectively mitigated. It also agrees that concessions under the Heavy Vehicle National Law be extended to operators who adopt fatigue and distraction detection technology as part of a safety management system.
The committee sees the proposed independent standard-setting body (see Recommendation 1) playing a key role in the development of measures to provide cost-recovery rate allowances for road transport sectors to take-up telematics and other safety critical technologies.
The committee recognises the role which technologies can have in supporting broader industry safety initiatives. The committee recommends that the government:
funds an education and awareness campaign around the benefits to small operators of the use of telematics devices, both in safety and efficiency;
ensures that all such telematics and other technologies meet strict guidelines designed to protect drivers’ privacy;
ensures that legislative and regulatory systems are reviewed to prepare for the emergence of automation and ensure that the risks and challenges which it may present to workers are effectively mitigated; and
through the proposed independent standards-setting body provide cost-recovery rate allowances for the take-up of telematics and other safety critical technologies.
The committee heard evidence that the decline in the business model underpinning the CIT industry and in safety standards following the entrance of small operators may be putting workers and the general public at risk.
The committee calls on the government to take action to ensure both the ongoing competitive viability of the CIT industry and the application of mandatory national standards. Prior to the renewal of the Banknote Distribution Agreement (BDA), the committee urges the government to examine the operation of the wholesale cash system and the relationship between the Reserve Bank, the BDA and approved cash centres. The government should consult broadly with industry participants including cash centre operators to formulate national operating standards, accreditation and licensing scheme and ensure that the rates of service are sustainable for the cash-in-transit industry.
The committee recommends that the government:
reviews the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Banknote Distribution Agreement (BDA) and the operation of the wholesale cash system and the relationship between the Reserve Bank of Australia, the BDA and approved cash centres; and
in consultation with industry participants, investigates the creation of national operating standards, accreditation and licensing scheme for the cash-in-transit industry.
Promoting industry best practice
Incentivise best practice
The committee sees benefit in five-star trucking scheme developed by the Transport and Logistics Centre being applied industy-wide. This ratings system, designed for transport operators, fosters safe work and competitive business practice, whilst setting national industry standards. The proposed system ranks road transport operators from basic compliance to best practice for key safety indicators such as speed, fatigue, driver health and vehicle management. Operators are incentivised to implement best practice through concessions such as reduced roadside heavy vehicle inspections, extended working time hours, and infrastructure access.
The committee sees significant benefit in the government, in partnership with industry and the Transport Logistics Centre, developing an industry wide- market-based ratings system that incentivises best-practice across the road transport sector.
To support best-practice across the road transport sector, the committee is also of the view that government must ensure all current and future Commonwealth contracts with a road transport component are only awarded to those road transport operators that apply the highest standards of industrial and road safety compliance. Commonwealth contracts should ensure these standards extend to contractor operations and the broader supply chain.
Livestock effluent disposal facilities
The committee agrees that effluent dumps should be a standard component of the road transport infrastructure along livestock freight routes and urges the Australian Government to assist in planning for a nationwide solution. The committee commends the work being done by ALRTA and the National Transport Commission to improve the legal framework around effluent control.
The committee is concerned that the safety of livestock transporters is being put at risk by unsafe and outdated loading and unloading infrastructure. The committee notes that enforcing the safety of loading and unloading ramps comes under the remit of state work health and safety agencies. The committee encourages state regulators to systematically assess the condition of loading and unloading ramps and do more to publicise the responsibility of producers and processors in providing a safe workplace with adequate facilities including toilets and change rooms.
The committee encourages the Australian Government to raise the safety of loading and unloading ramps with state work health and safety regulators with a view to making it a priority area for compliance assessments. The committee also urges the Australian Government to consider requiring Standards Australia to make standards more accessible to the community in its 2023 memorandum of understanding with that organisation.
The need to improve the laws for fatigue management is an area of near universal agreement among industry stakeholders. The committee has heard that drivers want to be able to manage their own rest and do not want a prescriptive and inflexible system. In the committee’s view, Western Australian fatigue management legislation offers a proven model that could be effectively adopted by the national law.
The committee reiterates that engagement with industry needs to be at the heart of effective reforms to the HVNL. The committee considers that before electronic work diaries are mandated, that the National Transport Commission, in consultation with industry, needs to examine the reasons why drivers are falsifying the record in written work diaries and resolve any systemic issues before exposing drivers to an increased risk of fines.
The committee recognises that fatigue management laws and their enforcement need to take into consideration the availability or otherwise of heavy vehicle rest areas. The committee is concerned that drivers face difficulties gaining access to truck stops that allow them to have quality rest. It also agrees that special consideration be given to the needs of livestock carriers and that any rest requirements under fatigue management laws take animal welfare into account.
Overall, the committee recommends the government amend relevant national laws to incorporate an appropriate fit for purpose national framework for managing driver fatigue.
Minister for Transport
Finally, the advocacy of the road transport sector is significantly hindered by the absence of a dedicated Minister for Transport at a national level. This lack of representation has acted as a barrier to the road transport sector’s capacity to develop national training and assistance measures, such as forming a national apprenticeship system for the transport industry.
The committee sees significant benefit in the creation of a dedicated ministerial position to serve the interests of the road transport sector, tasked with spearheading many of the reforms outlined within this report.
The committee recommends that the government:
develops an industry wide market-based ratings system to incentivise best-practice in the industry;
ensures all current and future government contracts with a road transport component are only awarded to road transport operators with the highest standards of industrial and road safety compliance throughout their operations and supply chain;
develops a plan and sustainable funding mechanism for establishing managed roadside livestock effluent disposal sites on key livestock freight routes in Australia;
amends national laws to incorporate an appropriate fit for purpose national framework for managing fatigue; and
appoint a dedicated Minister for Transport.
In order to better inform the Australian Government on matters of importance to the infrastructure, transport and road freight sectors, the committee calls for the establishment of a Transport Advisory Group or commission. This specialised advisory group should consist of members from the transport industry and unions, and function as a consultative and advisory body for ministers responsible for the infrastructure, transport and road freight portfolios. The committee envisions this advisory group meet regularly, to ensure Australian Government ministers are kept abreast of policy matters and ensure ongoing dialogue.
The committee recommends the establishment of a Transport Advisory Group or commission that:
consists of members from the transport industry and unions;
functions as a consultative and advisory body for ministers responsible for the infrastructure, transport and road freight portfolios; and
meets regularly to facilitate ongoing dialogue and provide updates on matters of importance to the road transport sector.
Senator Glenn Sterle
Labor Senator for Western Australia