Carrying the Cost

As a ‘through state’ New South Wales has more truck movements than any other Australian state. Road Freight NSW is the peak industry organisation representing large and small trucking operators. It has also worked with TfNSW and ARRB to support telematics and data collection for dangerous goods. The CEO is Simon O’Hara.

PM: When we last spoke about three years ago you talked about the work that had gone into the value proposition of belonging to RFNSW and its close relationship with Roads and Maritime Services. In light of recent restructures with RMS merging with Transport for NSW has the relationship changed?
SO’H: If anything, that relationship has borne fruit as we have continued to engage positively with them, worked through some pretty contentious issues and come to some mutually agreeable solutions. The close collaboration between us and TfNSW is not just window dressing.

PM: What have been some of the achievements?
SO’H: We have achieved a good result for the 40km/h slow down laws that now combine a more common sense approach for our truck drivers when they see the flashing lights from emergency services. Another example is the new formalised Container Freight Station notice, which had expired for a number of years earlier. We worked with RMS and TfNSW and made sure we had a binding gazetted notice that actually set out where the container freight stations were within the port.  With axle weights on roads we’ve also been able to achieve something really positive there in terms of containers that might be slightly overweight on the axles. We now have notices that combine safety with flexibility for operators. Additionally we have made good use of flat racks and approvals for our operators and their use around the Port.

PM: Does RFNSW work with other entities?
SO’H: There are a number of stakeholders such as the NHVR which we have worked with to genuinely attempt to improve the industry, to get more valid information for all involved, and to cut red tape for our members such as we are seeing in Newcastle with our OSOM operators.

PM: What other issues are you currently looking to tackle?
SO’H: Matters such as our members being able to check more regularly the demerit points their drivers have. There is a liability component, because if a driver loses their licence over the weekend, comes into work on Monday, says nothing about it, then our member has a person driving a heavy vehicle who is unlicensed. There are a lot of implications there such as civil and CoR issues. We’d like to see it streamlined because there are now more responsibilities to be addressed. We are currently engaging with TfNSW and the Australian Border Force around under-bond containers and the jurisdictions and laws which are in play and what happens in certain scenarios. These can be complex issues and we’re looking for clarity for the industry which will require productive working relationships with bodies such as TfNSW to help us achieve that.

PM: Port container fees seem to be a constant issue for the industry. How did the situation come about?
SO’H: There is a power dynamic between the stevedores and the shipping lines and it used to be that the stevedores had the power to be able to decide what prices were and what went into contracts. Because of the consolidations of the shipping lines that power dynamic seems to have changed. This situation first emerged in late 2016 and prior to that at Port Botany there were no infrastructure fees or surcharges. We’ve recently had a 54 per cent increase levied by Patricks and every six months more increases roll through.

PM: Does it affect only inbound containers?
SO’H: The additional charges affect the export of goods as well. We have country members involved in the export of grain and with the drought making things difficult enough, they have to sell into competitive international markets. Putting a charge and continually raising it on an export container makes it more difficult for the exporter.

PM: Is the management of empty containers an issue?
SO’H: We have ridiculous situations where trucks going into the empty container parks (ECP) can be charged a late fee while they are waiting in line to get in. We’ve also got members who are returning empty containers to one location and while on their journey in, or even waiting in line at the ECP, they get a redirection notice and have to take the container somewhere else. And conceivably they can be charged a late fee there as well. The situation is just chaotic and our members are carrying the cost.

PM: What needs to happen?
SO’H: The NSW state government should act and take some leadership on this with some regulating of these sort of charges so we get some equity back in the system. Otherwise we’re going to have fees continue to grow and there’ll be other new fees applied unchecked. We need some binding regulation to ensure it’s transparent, effective and there is some sort of system in place that ensures we get value for money. 

PM: Andrew Constance is the NSW Transport Minister. Does he need to become involved?
SO’H: We invite the Minister to come for a ride in one of our member’s trucks and come out through Port Botany or out to Western Sydney and see what our members do day in and day out. We appreciate that he’s got his hands full in his electorate due to the bushfires but when he’s back on board the invitation is there.


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