EFFLUENT CONTROL CONSIDERED AT NTC LOAD RESTRAINT WORKSHOP
This week ALRTA attended a meeting of the NTC Load Restraint Guide (LRG) Maintenance Group. While the LRG is an important reference tool for operators, enforcement officers and courts, it has become outdated since it was last reviewed 12 years ago and it is incomplete in some important aspects.
For example, the current version includes only minimal reference to livestock loading and there are zero references to effluent control.
Last year the ALRTA successfully lobbied for a new approach to chain of responsibility laws that will better capture off-road parties in the livestock supply chain. Now that Ministers have agreed to implement the new laws, it is time to more clearly articulate the duties of the various parties with respect to effluent control.
I am pleased to report that there was unanimous support across the states, NTC, NHVR and key industry bodies for livestock loading and effluent control to be included in the revised guide. This should take the form of key ‘high level’ concepts that can support the separate development of specific guidance material on effluent control (e.g. that effluent is part of the ‘goods’ being transported; that effluent spills are load restraint breaches; and that off-road parties have a duty to prevent on-road load restraint breaches).
Critically, the LRG will also refer to the more detailed industry effluent guide, effectively giving it some level of recognition under the HVNL.
While the ALRTA is making steady progress on this issue, the wheels of government are slow when all of the jurisdictions are involved. Ministers won’t consider the final revised LRG until November 2017, and then there will still be legislative processes to play out before the new guide is properly recognised.
Later this year, the ALRTA will invite supply chain parties to participate in the development of the more detailed guidance material so that all of the elements can eventually come together at the same time. This will create a fundamentally different operating environment that educates and empowers enforcement officers while motivating off-road chain parties to prepare animals correctly prior to transport.
ALRTA WRITES TO NTC ON LOADING INFRASTRUCTURE
Effluent control is not the only area where chain of responsibility has been ineffective in the livestock supply chain.
The ALRTA has written to the NTC outlining our perspectives on how the new chain of responsibility laws ought to be applied to livestock loading infrastructure and inviting the NTC to clarify duties and work with the ALRTA to improve safety for our drivers and other road users.
Over the past 40 years, there has been a dramatic improvement in the standard of prime movers and trailers used for the livestock freight task. The safety performance of a modern, purpose built, combination is scarcely comparable to the vehicles used in the 1970s and 80s.
As technology has advanced, so too has the price of purchasing and maintaining a contemporary heavy vehicle combination. Professional livestock transporters invest many hundreds of thousands of dollars in their on-road equipment and are subject to regular observation or inspection by enforcement authorities.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for livestock loading and unloading infrastructure. All too often, drivers of modern vehicles have no choice but to use the very same loading ramp that was built for vehicles designed a generation ago (or even longer).
Outdated livestock loading infrastructure is neither vehicle-friendly or animal-friendly. Drivers know that a prolonged and tedious loading or unloading process can significantly affect their fatigue levels over the full length of a transport task.
ALRTA has taken a proactive approach toward promoting improvements in the design, construction and operation of livestock loading ramps and forcing yards by developing and publishing national guidelines. While the guide has been well received by some livestock facilities, there are many others that remain resigned to doing the absolute bare minimum in line with the lowest-cost option – or simply will take no action at all.
It is simply not acceptable that we continue the practice of putting this important sector in the ‘too hard basket’, thereby exposing our drivers and other road users to on-road safety risks that can, and should be, controlled by off-road parties in the chain.
With the imminent introduction of the new chain of responsibility laws, there is an excellent opportunity for the ALRTA to partner with authorities such as the NTC and NHVR to more clearly articulate the responsibilities of the parties in the livestock supply chain.
ALRTA PROVIDES EVIDENTIARY STATEMENT ON NSW GCCD
In cooperation with the LBCA, the ALRTA has prepared a written evidentiary statement warning the Industrial Relations Commission about the dangers of extending minimum rates for owner drivers in NSW and flagging the prospect of further ‘regulatory creep’ that could extend the rates to sectors that are currently exempt.
The ALRTA has discussed the issue with other interested parties and we have concluded that the best option for our association is to play a supporting role rather than make direct representations in the formal industrial proceedings.
Firstly, we believe that the majority of our membership is exempt from the current interim
General Carriers Contract Determination. Basically, you are unlikely to be covered if you carry livestock; use a specialised vehicle (e.g. a tipper, tanker, low loader); go to or from a farm; are engaged by a primary producer; or undertake work for more than one primary contractor.
Secondly, the parties who are ‘registered industrial organisations’ in NSW are collectively opposing the right of any new organisation to join the proceedings in their own right. Some other associations are using a large part of their resources just trying to get seat at the table. Due to the fact we are largely exempt, it would be an even harder task for the ALRTA.
Nonetheless, given our recent experiences with the RSRT and the clear strategy of the TWU to bring owner drivers into the industrial relations system, we do think it is important to support the efforts of the affected parties in opposing the TWU proposals. Our evidentiary statement has been provided to support the case of ‘RFNSW – Australian Industry Group’ case.
Readers of last week’s newsletter would also be aware that ALRTA has successfully brought motions to the ATA Council that requires the ATA to adopt a clear position opposing mandatory minimum rates for owner drivers; and, importantly, that the ATA take appropriate steps to prevent or limit the application of mandatory minimum rates.
ALRTA met with NatRoad this week to explore opportunities for a cooperative campaign both in NSW and Federally to investigate and pursue opportunities for a political solution.
CHECK YOUR DECKS
I have been informed of a recent incident in which an internal mezzanine deck collapsed and smothered several sheep. While this is a tragic and rare event, it is important that we do everything we can to minimise these risks.
Please remind your drivers to check that all deck anchor points are secure and that taller animals are not placed underneath sections that could be lifted out of place.
There are eyes and ears everywhere in the animal welfare space. Wherever you are, you are an ambassador for our industry so make sure you are always mindful of animal welfare laws and apply best practice.