TA 2019: Representation, safety and diversity in spotlight

By: Mark Gojszyk

Truck Australia kicks off with strong speech from women’s champion Voie

TA 2019: Representation, safety and diversity in spotlight
Ellen Voie


In a time when an election is on the horizon and the industry is changing rapidly, Truck Australia (TA) 2019 has addressed key topics of representation, driver safety and wellbeing, and diversity in the workplace.

With an election upcoming, Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chair Geoff Crouch says it is absolutely critical that those at the coalface have their voices heard to enhance the industry’s prospects: "They are the ones whose experience we need most."

The issue of the upcoming federal election campaign is unavoidable and Crouch says the ATA will make sure views are "heard loud and clear on all sides of the political spectrum", also welcoming a new road safety agency as part of the federal government Budget funding on safety.

The topic of enforceable standards on payment and conditions are also in the forethought given the re-energised TWU and Labor campaign on safe rates.

Crouch says the ATA is having constructive conversations around how this could be done. On payment and safety he agrees, but the former Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) was a "disaster", which now even the opposition admits – and is why senator Glen Sterle is working with the ATA to hear from operators.

Read how the ATA welcomed Sterle’s constructive approach to reform, here

Crouch spruiked the benefits of the ATA’s Cabover Cabinet initiative as a way of cutting through to politicians on such matters.

One of those is: "How we can deliver 2.3 billion tonnes of freight per year without fatalities."

"There is much more to be done," Crouch says, listing the truck driver licensing system as one area of the industry that needs to be cleaned up as it is exploited by some training facilities.

"You can spend few hours on theory and then some practical before hitting the road with a licence. We must get rid of those who don’t [hold high standards] and make sure drivers are well qualified."

Other focuses for the ATA going forward are technology improvements as a means of improving safety, rest stops, permit access and notices, and truck accreditation system – which has an issue around competitiveness around government and private systems.

Finally, Crouch is committed to ensuring ATA had strong focus on mental health. Eight people per day lose their life to suicide and "time is now for a call to action to make a demonstrable difference".

His thoughts were echoed in later sessions by the NTI’s Adam Gibson and Toll’s Sarah Jones, who provided eye-opening statistics around suicide by truck, which is becoming an increasing problem yet is still a stigmatised issue that is inadequately addressed.


Earlier, Women in Trucking Association (WITA) founder Ellen Voie delivered a powerful speech with her insights from the States, issuing a clear message to operators and Australian industry leaders: "Diversity is a good thing."

Women are still an undervalued asset in the industry, Voie notes – a similar theme around the world - quoting only 24 per cent of women in leadership roles in the states, and that number drops to 6 per cent of women on boards in publicly listed companies.

So what's keeping women away? Exposure, and safety concerns.

Some 80 per cent of women are in the industry through family, making the initial entry into industry difficult without prior connections.

Then, "women only go for a job if they have 100 per cent of the qualifications", whereas men are more confident in their abilities.

"Women need to take credit for the work they do," she says, encouraging employers to the types of conversations in the recruitment phase.

As for safety, it comes down to three main factors: "How well are the trucks maintained; what is your safety culture; where are you sending them?"

On all three, a survey revealed a safety rating of 4.4 out of 10, highlighting significant concerns for industry.

Once women have a foot in the door, the results are telling. Voie says studies in the states show that women are safer, more efficient drivers and more loyal to their establishment.

And, in leadership roles, they have been proven to deliver higher profits through their "collaborative, engaged" characters.

Therefore, more women in industry can only be a good thing, Voie concludes.


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