Rocky boss lobbies politicians to cut more red tape
ROCKHAMPTON truckie Tony Hopkins has been in the ear of politicians fighting for positive changes in the transport industry since the late 1970s.
But the problem for the Hopkins Brothers boss and long-time president of the National Road Freighters Association is not enough in Canberra have been listening.
That's why he put the challenge to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack before the last federal election to visit his Queensland depot to hear for himself what needs to be done.
True to his word, the minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development fronted last week - along with assistant minister for road safety and freight transport Scott Buchholz; and Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry - for a roundtable on the NRFA's most pressing issues.
Top of the agenda for Tony and NRFA vice president Gordo Mackinlay, who heads up Mackinlay Transport in Holbrook, New South Wales, was getting the message across to the politicians that an excess of red tape is strangling profitability.
"The biggest problem with this industry now is that if you make a mistake it's going to cost you $10,500 in your log-book,” said Tony.
"Well that's bullshit; that's bad legislation.
"The NT and WA have the best systems. You don't go to work looking over your shoulder how long before I get hit.
"They've still got to keep record of hours work and they still work very similar hours to what we do, but they've got the flexibility built in.”
Tony also gave the politicians a first-hand look at the disparity between cab sizes in Australia and the US, courtesy of a standard demo cab from Mack and the super-sized equivalent from the acclaimed private collection of Rocky's own Tony Champion.
"What we're asking for is to fix the trailer length and give us another couple of metres so if need be you can have a decent sized sleeper on,” said Tony.
"Tony Champion told me Australia is where America was in the late 1990s. They had the same problem and that's why they came out with the law that the trailer length was fixed but they can have what they need in front of cab.”
Tony Hopkins believes adopting a similar approach here will go a long way to helping truckies better manage their own fatigue.
He doesn't believe that technology is the panacea that many believe it is, or that trucking is the problem.
"It's not the truckie that's got the fatigue problem, it's the car drivers,” said Tony.
"My argument is that are they trying to tell me that anything under 4.5 tonne, a motorbike, a car, or anything is not fatigue-related; sorry it is. If they believe the way to fix it is log books, why isn't every person who's got a licence, who drives a car not got a log book?
Tony also took time to lobby the visiting politicians to do something about registration charges.
"It must be nearly five years since I went to a meeting at the National Transport Commission about the over-charging and nothing's changed.
"In fact, registration has gone back up again.
"You can do it on a fuel-based scheme I believe where you haven't got the small operators cross subsidising the multi-nationals, and use the user-pay system, the more fuel you burn, the more rego you pay.
"If they made the rego reasonable like they used to for your trucks and trailers you'd get more people with gear registered doing more work so the government would end up with more money in their coffers.”
Mr McCormack said he understood the struggles facing Tony and his NRFA members and committed to raising the concerns at the next Transport Infrastructure Council meeting.
"We'll look at what we can do as Ministers of State and the Territories and the Federal Government to ensure that we get the best possible outcomes,” he said.
"There are many ministers and I appreciate that whilst we have different political persuasions, we all want to make sure that we build a better Australia.
"We all want to make sure that we build a better regional Australia. We can do that when we can help transport companies like Hopkins and like MacKinlay, and indeed all the transport companies across Australia.
"We can do it with better regulation, with better laws and as Tony Hopkins often tells me, making sure that we can cut out those unnecessary regulations so that we can cut through some of the red tape that does exist, some of the red tape that does burden these sorts of companies.
"As a Federal Government we have indeed cut a lot of red tape out of legislation. It has been a saving to business - a $5.8 billion saving a year, every year, since we came into Government in 2013. But we can and we must and we will do more.”