DP World recently announced increased fees by up to 50% effective from New Year’s Day, just months after access fees went up or were introduced at ports in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane by both DP World and Patrick.
“These access fees are putting pressure on an industry already struggling on tight margins. We know this kind of financial pressure results in transport operators forced to cut back on truck maintenance and results in drivers pushed to speed and drive long hours. Just last week we saw official statistics show an increase of 9.4% in deaths from articulated truck crashes since last year. I again appeal to the ACCC to investigate this distorting, unilateral fee hike,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
“Clients are clearly calling the shots and this is having devastating effect on the transport industry. Transport operators have little bargaining powers against these powerful stevedores, which demand payment or hold out the threat of cutting operators off the Vehicle Booking Scheme, which allows them to operator at the ports. This problem cannot go unchecked for much longer,” said Sheldon.
Hardship is also piled on transport operators because of the discrepancy between the time period within which stevedores demand to get paid and when transport operators get paid by their clients. Stevedores are demanding payment within 28 days while operators can wait up to 90 days for payment, creating huge pressure on cash flow and knock-on effects for maintenance of fleets and drivers’ pay.
Paul Mifsud, an owner driver who operates around Melbourne port, says any price hike for operates can have devastating consequences. “It means there just isn’t the cash flow to carry out the work, so families are crippled, businesses go bankrupt and injuries and deaths go up,” he said.
Darren Coulstock, a driver at NSW Port says there is a serious knock on effect for drivers. “We already are working in Australia’s most dangerous job. Nearly 40% of all workplace fatalities involve transport workers. Increasing fees will impact on this,” he said.
In June, it was revealed that rent charges for stevedores at NSW Port had dropped, exposing the claim by stevedores that infrastructure fee hikes were necessary because of increased charges.