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Improving Road Safety in Australia

By Michael Kilgariff, Managing Director, Australian Logistics Council

Improving Road Safety in Australia

Michael Kilgariff, Managing Director, Australian Logistics Council

At the 2016 Federal Election in Australia, won by the incumbent Liberal / National Coalition, heavy vehicle safety and compliance was a prominent issue, and for the first time in recent memory, the issue captured the imagination of the national media.

The debate focussed on the extent to which heavy vehicle drivers’ rates of pay should be regulated and set by an independent body, which, in the case of Australia, was the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

The Australian Logistics Council, the peak industry body for Australia’s logistics industry, lobbied hard to have the Tribunal disbanded, as we firmly believe that there are more effective approaches to achieving improved safety and compliance on our roads.

Our position was based on the premise that a safer supply chain equals a more efficient supply chain.  Research undertaken by ALC has found the logistics industry:

•     Represents 8.6% of the nation’s GDP in 2013

•     Directly contributed $131.6 billion to Australia’s economy in 2013.

•      A 1% improvement in the efficiency of the sector generates $2 billion of gains to the economy each year

One such approach is through development of an Operating Licensing or Accreditation Scheme.  ALC supports the introduction of such a scheme to ensure industry participants are competent to perform required tasks.

There are a number of Operator Licensing schemes in existence around the world.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the concept of Operator Licensing is well established and has been in existence for 40 years.  It aims to maintain high standards of safety by ensuring licence holders are professionally competent, or that they employ someone who is professionally competent.  Licensees have to demonstrate compliance with technical, safety or financial fitness requirements specified by the regulator.

Specifically, licence applicants must satisfy a traffic commissioner that they:

-     Are of good repute and of appropriate financial standing

-      Have good facilities for maintaining vehicles

-      Are capable of ensuring that they and their staff follow all necessary laws and regulations relating to the movement of freight.

The rationale is that only safe and reliable operators of goods and passenger vehicles are permitted to be licensed, and an operator's licence (or O licence) is the legal authority needed to operate goods vehicles in Great Britain. A licence is issued by the Traffic Commissioner – the independent regulator of the commercial road transport industry.  The Traffic Commissioner also has powers to take regulatory action against a licence holder where they fail to meet the expected standards of operation. 

ALC’s support for Operating Licensing is based on our concerns about the capacity of some road operators to operate a business in a business-like manner and, more particularly, that some operators do not maintain sufficient capital to maintain vehicles in a roadworthy state.  These failings pose dangers to all road users .

In 2016, ALC will continue to engage with national and state regulators to discuss the potential establishment of an ‘Operator Licensing’ scheme that has the potential, if adopted, to improve road safety for all Australians.

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