CALL FOR ACTION: Logistics boss Arthur Tzaneros makes his case at the Safe Rates Summit in Canberra.
CALL FOR ACTION: Logistics boss Arthur Tzaneros makes his case at the Safe Rates Summit in Canberra. Contributed

'Industry is in crisis', says logistics boss

TRANSPORT titan Arthur Tzaneros, the boss of the largest privately-owned container logistics operation in Australia, has joined the intensifying safe rates debate with an impassioned plea for action.

In a sobering speech at Parliament House in Canberra for the recent Safe Rates Summit, the ACFS Port Logistics chief executive said the transport industry was in crisis because of the lack of minimum rates for drivers.

"We've hit the floor in regards to rates, payment terms and compliance across the transport industry," Mr Tzaneros said.

"There is no floor, no regulation as to how low subcontractors are paid, it's as low as they (the industry) want to go.

"We've now got to the point that there are customers out there on an annual basis who are expecting reductions, there is offshore procurements, online tendering, with the sole focus of reduced rates.

"We can't continue to be a sustainable industry, we can't continue to be an industry where youth wants to enter in an ageing industry with the state it is in at the present.

"We need to do something and now is the time."

Mr Tzaneros was among several supporters, from all industry pillars, who gathered in Canberra to lobby for change at the behest of the Transport Workers Union.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said something needed to be done so that those using the roads had the confidence they could return home safely every day.

"It is simply not good enough that every other day on our roads someone is dying in a truck crash," he said.

"The tragedy of that is just too hard for us as a community to bear. These rules need to change and they need to change now."

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O'Neil said the whole of the Australian trade union movement was behind this campaign.

"We know it's important, we know it's important for the drivers and workers and for everybody who uses our roads, and it was a disgrace that it was under the watch of the Morrison Government that they abolished a mechanism that was clearly designed for fairness and the safety of every Australian," she said.

"It makes no sense."

ALP industrial relations spokesperson Brendan O'Connor called for the Liberals to work with Labor to ensure regulations were put in place to stop the exploitation of truck drivers.

"It's an absolute disgrace that the government chooses to play politics with road users and truck drivers," he said.

Just a few days earlier, however, South Australian Road Transport Association executive director Steve Shearer posted a stern rebuke to the TWU and ALP push for safe rates, echoing the sentiment of many Big Rigs' readers.

On the association Facebook page he said tens of thousands of owner- operators and small family fleets would lose their business if it became policy under a Labor government this year.

"SARTA is every bit as concerned for, and fights for, owner-operators as we are for small to medium and even responsible large fleets," Mr Shearer said.

SARTA believes that:

Everyone in the industry should be paid sustainably and promptly

Government-imposed price fixing on all operators will do more harm than good

Owner-operators and small family trucking businesses will lose their competitive edge under Labor/TWU's proposal to impose fixed pricing on all operators

Owner-operators and small family fleets will generally be dumped by prime contractors as they will no longer be cheaper

In a follow-up post Mr Shearer also questioned the validity of TWU's statistics in support of the safe rates campaign and the re-instalment of the road safety remuneration tribunal.

Mr Kaine said the RSRT was cutting truck crash deaths by 28% before its abolishment in 2016.

"The TWU claims are designed to fool people, the media and politicians into believing that 500 people have been killed on our roads as a result of the abolition of the RSRT," Mr Shearer countered in a Facebook follow-up.

"Michael Kaine and the TWU are misleading the media, the public and the politicians on this and exaggerating the number of fatalities attributable to poor rates by a factor of 20."