Monday, 28 July 2008

Truck drivers two-week national stoppage

There are calls for state and federal govts to abandon new transport changes to get trucks back on the road.

The organiser of a national truck driver shutdown says he expects Australia's transport industry to be crippled in a matter of days.

The two-week stoppage began at midnight AEST last night over state and federal government transport changes, which include increased registration fees, new fatigue laws and changes to the fuel excise.

Organiser Mick Pattell, of the National Road Transport Forum, says he hopes the public will back drivers' concerns.

He says state and federal governments must abandon new transport changes to get trucks back on the road.

"Hopefully the government will come to the table fairly quickly and not allow this to happen to the public," he said.

"We've really got to do this to highlight the plight of this industry.

"One of the things that has come to our attention is that the sale of through the big multinational stores has exceeded Christmas time levels, so people are stocking up and getting ready for it."

Mr Pattell says he is proud of the industry for standing up for something they believe in.

He says the only concessions during the shutdown will be the delivery of food for animals in feedlots.

"Where you've got cattle in a captured environment that need to be fed, those people cannot stay out for very long and we don't expect them to," he said.

"We certainly don't want to create any hardship for any animals and it's the same for any essential services that've got to be provided but the general freight and the cattle freight, fuel tank freight is certainly going to be shut down for a good period of time."

Agforce support

Farm lobby group Agforce says the public must get behind the shutdown, even if it causes short-term pain.

Agforce spokesman Greg Brown says it is disappointed with the attitude of the state and federal governments, as well as the trucking organisations that are not supporting the shutdown.

"I mean if they're not supportive I can understand that but they're out there white-anting these people and I think that's pretty disappointing," he said.

"I think all they have to do is sit on their hands and I think there's an enormous amount of support for this out in the bush because people are aware that in time to come we're just not going to be able to wear it."

Mr Brown says he hopes the public supports the shutdown.

"Unless they're aware, we're never going to make a mark on either the state or federal governments, so I think we need their help and the truckies are just trying to attract their attention," he said.

"There doesn't appear to be any other way."

'Unreasonable action'

But Queensland Deputy Premier Paul Lucas says the shutdown will not achieve the outcome the industry is looking for.

Mr Lucas says the industry is taking unreasonable action.

He says changes to fatigue management laws are needed, not only in Queensland but across the country.

"About a third of the fatalities last year on Queensland roads involved heavy vehicles," he said.

"The Queensland community wants us to be fair when it comes to cracking down on fatigued driving and the like in our trucks.

"The Federal Government have now indicated that they're going to inquire into the nature of contracts for heavy vehicles that drivers enter into - that's good news."

Meanwhile, a roadhouse in western Queensland will lock its bowsers from today in support of the truck stoppage.

The operators of the Kynuna Roadhouse, north-west of Winton, say the petrol and gas bowsers will remain locked until the shutdown is over.

It means there will be no petrol on the Landsborough Highway between McKinlay and Winton.

Updated 5:00pm (AEST)

Truckies sacked for stopping work

Stopwork truckies sacked (Get Image)

A spokesman for South Australian truck owners and drivers, Robert Harrowfield, says the drivers all worked for the same company.

They were warned they would be out of a job if they joined the national stoppage.

About 70 truck drivers met in Adelaide to discuss concerns including fatigue and higher fuel prices.

A further meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday.

One driver's partner, Glenda, hopes the public will sympathise with drivers and their families.

"My partner works very, very hard - he's constantly tired and when he gets home he just wants to fall into bed," she said.

"Weekends are spent trying to catch up on that sleep - basically you don't have a life.

"He's trying to do his best and it's not easy when nobody wants to give him a break."

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