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Industry sees tighter focus on Uber, Amazon challenge

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Common ground found as alarm at potential disruptive market pressure rises

Industry sees tighter focus on Uber, Amazon challenge
Glenn Sterle


Such a disruption of the industry was the focus of opposition transport safety spokesman senator Glenn Sterle’s Transport Industry Standards Forum meeting in Canberra yesterday involving more than 30 representative bodies, including transport operators, industry associations, truck drivers, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and retailers.

The union is particularly agitated on the likes of Uber’s and Amazon’s freight systems becoming entrenched in Australia, given the heavy financial pressure they have put on the freight transport sector and workers generally elsewhere.

It is already engaging Uber industrially on the position of Uber drivers.

Sterle’s move follows commentary from the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) on the subject.

"Our industry needs regulation to ensure that the potential entry into the Australian market of Uber Freight and Amazon’s online freight system does not drive down standards further, obliterate our industry and result in even more deaths on our roads ," TWU national secretary Michael Kaine says.

The forum called for the inquiry to focus on the "importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry", according to the terms of reference. It will examine "efficient cost-recovered measures for industry stakeholders, including sub-contractors", the union reports.

"Yesterday was a milestone for our industry as we came together and united to address the problems we have today and prepare ourselves for future threats," Kaine says.

"This is about lifting standards and it is about ensuring our industry is viable and safe. This inquiry will shine a light on what goes on in an industry when the profits of wealthy companies at the top are put ahead of people’s lives and the ability of transport companies to be safe and sustainable.

"I urge the Australian Parliament to approve this inquiry and allow it to start its work as soon as possible."

Victorian Transport Association (VTA) chief executive Peter Anderson was quoted as saying Amazon has "already proven to be unscrupulous"  in pursuing growth in other markets.

Anderson’s comments were supported by VTA president FBT Transwest MD Cameron Dunn, who emphasised the importance of an enforceable minimum rate and sustainable standards in the face of such disruptive pressures.

The terms of reference for the inquiry, if agreed in the Senate, would be – "The importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry, with particular regard to:

  • the importance of an enforceable minimum award rate and sustainable standards and conditions for all stakeholders in the road transport industry
  • the development and maintenance of road transport infrastructure to ensure a safe, and efficient road transport industry
  • the regulatory impact, including appropriateness, relevance and adequacy of the legislative framework, on all stakeholders in the road transport industry
  • the training and career pathways to support, develop and sustain the road transport industry
  • the social and economic impact of road-related injury, trauma and death
  • efficient cost-recovered measures for industry stakeholders, including sub-contractors
  • the impact of new technologies and advancements in freight distribution, vehicle design and road safety
  • the importance of establishing a formal consultative relationship between the road transport industry and all levels of government in Australia
  • Other related matters."

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