OPINION: Drivers barely rate a mention in freight plan
THERE is nothing quite like a plan.
Late last year the NSW Government released the NSW Draft Freight and Ports Plan, a 90-page document full of "clear direction” and priorities which government have said will enable them to "deliver a more efficient freight system”.
To quote: "The NSW Draft Freight and Ports Plan contains actions and future directions by Government and industry to move goods in an efficient, safe and environmentally sustainable manner.”
Somewhere around the country, a truck driver just choked on his coffee.
The Transport Workers' Union has studied the plan and we think it is mostly ornamental.
It is a document for politicians to wave about because they know there are votes to be won.
But drivers - the people who actually perform the work in the freight transport industry - barely rate a mention.
The plan takes note of the future, saying freight movements will increase and that the "predominant mode of transport” for the future delivery of freight will be road transport.
It tells us that there will be more truck movements around the clock, and an increased demand for heavier and longer vehicles.
You would think it obvious then that any plan aiming to address and manage the issues arising from this increasing freight task would have at the forefront of its mind the people who perform the work, not a chance.
The plan makes no provision to consult drivers or their representative organisations like the TWU.
Instead, it appears almost singularly focused on driving only economic efficiencies, using "innovative solutions” (read: technology) to address the demands placed on the transport industry.
To the NSW Government, I would make the point that they are not in power to only represent the economically powerful industry clients who already hold the reigns when it comes to pricing.
They are also there to represent the drivers who do the work.
It's simple - competition in transport is strong.
Price is usually the main determining factor in whether a company wins or loses a contract.
Higher competition means that drivers are and will continue to be under increasing pressure to deliver goods as quickly and cheaply as possible.
This means that drivers will feel financial strain, fatigue and pressure to get the job done, no matter the cost.
More freight movements and efficiencies in the industry will not translate to safer roads and a reduced road toll, as the Government claims.
It is critical that the Government does not forget the workers who carry the freight industry and it is critical that they develop transport policy that is based on a conversation with all in the industry, especially drivers.
Any changes implemented or mandated for the transport industry that affect the work of drivers, without consultation to those drivers, is not change for the better.