Australians tackle detention time, trucker pay as safety issues

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Monday, March 19, 2012

The Australian government is working on reforms that will hold the entire supply chain accountable for safety and compliance in the trucking industry. The plan would make sure truckers are paid for detention time and discourage shippers from pressuring drivers to run non-compliant.

The Road Safety Remuneration Bill, which passed the Australian House of Representatives on Monday, March 19, would form an industrial tribunal to set detention rates, resolve disputes and hand down penalties. The bill has likely support from the Senate according to people close to the issue.

Truckers welcome the change in the detention policy.

“I won’t be doing it for nothing. I’ll be getting paid for it. Therefore, I do not have to put myself under pressure on the next trip to try to make up the money that I’ve lost by sitting for hours outside one distribution center,” owner-driver Frank Black said in a video report by the Australian Associated Press.

“It also means I’ll be able to maintain my vehicle properly, and get adequate rest without having to bust my boiler just to make a living.”

Back in November, 2011, a survey by the Australian Transport Workers Union showed that truckers can be detained up to 500 hours at the docks each year without being compensated. Drivers who were surveyed said they were routinely forced to break speed and fatigue laws to meet deadlines.

U.S. researcher and author Michael Belzer, associate professor of economics at Wayne State University, traveled to Australia in November 2011 to testify before a legislative panel.

Belzer believes detention pay for truckers will make a big difference in accountability in the chain.

“They can work those hours and get paid for them so that, at the margin, they don’t need to take that last run they shouldn’t be taking,” Belzer told “Land Line Now.”

“And it also puts more pressure on the trucking company or the shipper, depending on the circumstance, to be more concerned not to put too much pressure on the driver. And if they do, and that pressure results in a crash, they’re going to be held responsible.”

“Land Line Now” Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this article.

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