The inquiry’s final report raises “serious concerns about the safety of the Australian travelling public” after it investigated loopholes in the visa system and fraud in training schools.
“This report is a damning indictment of the Federal Government’s lack of regulation and oversight in this area. It is clear how broken the system is when people can be exploited, have their lives put in danger and then kicked out of the country with no accountability among those making profits at their expense. It is clear from these findings that there are risks for overseas drivers working in the transport supply chain and that they protections and rights,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
The TWU has called for overseas workers to be given access to education and health services and to have access to union representatives on entering the country so their rights and protections can be explained. Industry-wide training overseen by industry, unions and academics should also be carried out under the auspices of a national auditing, education and industrial rights to ensure skills for drivers.
“Exploitation of overseas workers is an insidious aspect of the race to the bottom in the trucking industry. At a time when wage growth is at its lowest, this exploitation is forcing rates down. For all workers this is creating difficulties but in an industry as dangerous as trucking, it is compromising safety,” said Sheldon.
The Senate inquiry has been investigating the events which led to two inexperienced drivers holding up traffic for several hours on the M5 motorway in Sydney last year because they were unable to reverse their truck out of a tunnel. The inquiry discovered the drivers were allowed to drive the truck off once the RMS backed the truck out of the tunnel. One driver’s visa was afterwards cancelled and “he was subsequently removed from Australia”, the report states.
“It is outrageous that the driver got treated in this way while the training companies engaging in dodgy licences are still operating and the transport companies and clients involved have not been held to account,” said Sheldon.
The report also looked into the Federal Government issuing labour agreements for transport companies wanting to bring in overseas workers on 457 visas. A labour agreement was awarded to operator Northline, which has since requested two more agreements, to bring in fork-lift drivers which requires two days training.
“Truck drivers and the travelling public are paying the ultimate price for the race to the bottom in trucking which is occurring because of client demand for lower costs. What we need are good quality jobs which involve training and skill. It is no one’s interest to see jobs in this industry marked by low rates and exploitation,” he added.
The committee’s list of recommendations include:
The committee recommends that, if not adequately addressed through the recommendations of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection comprehensively review visa arrangements to address systematic or organised abuse in the transport industry.
The committee recommends that all visa holders with heavy vehicle driving licences undergo driver skill tests before their heavy vehicle driving licences are recognised in Australia. Recommendation
The committee recommends that the Australian Government convene a series of industry-led roundtables to make recommendations to government to establish an independent industry body which has the power to formulate, implement and enforce supply chain standards and accountability as well as sustainable, safe rates for the transport industry.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government convene a series of industry-led roundtables to make recommendations to government on ways to strengthen the Heavy Vehicle National Law.
The committee recommends that, informed by industry roundtables, the Australian Government amend the Heavy Vehicle National Law to address issues throughout the supply chain in the transport industry including chain of responsibility, minimum payment terms of 30 days and electronic work diaries.
The committee recommends that the Austroads review consider: • raising the standard required of heavy vehicle drivers under the Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA), with a renewed focus on safety; and • national consistency in relation to heavy vehicle instructor or assessor eligibility, including requiring mandatory industry experience in driving and handling the appropriate vehicle.
Following the Austroads review, the committee recommends that the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council work to ensure that all jurisdictions adopt the revised criteria of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework (NHVDC Framework) as a matter of urgency.
The committee recommends that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) take a more active role in monitoring the delivery of heavy vehicle training undertaken by registered training organisations and other providers.