Looking outside the bubble

In The Last Mile, July 20215 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 31, 2021

It was interesting to read a report in the Australian Big Rigs newsletter on 2 March regarding kilometre rates. The writer – Glenn Sterle, a former truck driver turned Australian senator – gave the Australian Parliament what he considered a few home truths about that country’s trucking industry. He claimed that most drivers are being short- changed by the rate/kilometre payments system, saying that “the majority of employers in the road-transport industry, predominantly in the interstate linehaul sector, are absolutely ripping off their drivers”.

He presented a couple of examples: “The employers say it’s 880km between Melbourne and Sydney, so they’ll pay for 880km, not taking into account that drivers have probably spent five or six hours running around Melbourne or Sydney doing the loading.” And, “Someone’s got to actually wash the bucket of nuts and bolts; someone’s got to put the fuel in it. They don’t pay for that. That’s all part of the kilometre rate. The drivers just do that for love!”

When reading this article, I kept asking myself who in New Zealand is prepared to stand up in front of Parliament and tell our elected representatives what is really happening in our industry? Sending out statements to the press and commenting on government policy might give some the warm fuzzies, but words really don’t cut it – actions make the difference. We need a champion like Sterle for our industry.

Sometimes it is worth looking outside our little playground to see what is going on overseas, especially what overseas regulators are up to. Our regulators tend to look abroad when developing policy, especially to Australia.

In March, I read on the ATN news site that the Australian Logistics Council is continuing to support a National Operating Standard for the road-freight industry. Australia has had a registered industry code of practice supporting its Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation since November 2018, but its use has been voluntary. Now the push is on to make it mandatory. Australian CoR rules impact some Kiwi operators because they are part of a trans-Tasman supply chain; they must show by their actions that they operate a safe and compliant business. This does not mean they must comply with Australian legislation, but they must show their business meets the New Zealand rules that apply, such as load security, work time, and vehicle safety.

How do we stack up now? CoR in New Zealand is legislated for in the Land Transport Act, and most Land Transport Rules have requirements that fit within the CoR framework. In 2003, the Road Transport Forum instigated the development of Code of Good Practice standards for the industry. Although these were drafted, that’s about as far as they went. But many of them would still fit today’s environment some 18 years later. It’s about time we took the lead and they become the standard for how our industry operates today.

Supporting the call for mandatory use of the National Operating Standard, I read that the Australian National Vehicle Regulator had charged a goods consigner for failing to comply with load-restraint rules, failing to inform an overseas supplier about Australian safety regulations, failing to have any load restraint system in place and failing to advise the driver and operator of how the load was packed. These charges stem from an incident where a container carrying 26 tonnes of imported timber and timber products caused a semi-trailer to topple over onto a pedestrian crossing.

Changing subjects, another weird story caught my attention in March. It appears the Wellington Regional Council is considering charging people who use the Park & Ride car parks at railway stations. The reason? People are parking their cars in them. Maybe it’s me, but that’s what I thought they were for. But maybe not? Perhaps they come into the same category as many of our highways, designed more to look nice rather than to provide a safe and efficient surface for paying road users to get from A to B?

Maybe it is time I stopped reading? The Accidental Trucker