Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Work under way to to safeguard transport operators

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Work is about to step up on a charter that aims to safeguard transport operators in the livestock movement chain by recognising that there are instances where responsibilities are falling unfairly on trucking companies.
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Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett says parts of the livestock movement chain other than trucking companies need to take more responsibility.

Work is about to step up on a charter that aims to safeguard transport operators in the livestock movement chain by recognising that there are instances where responsibilities are falling unfairly on trucking companies.

Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett said about this time last year the industry brought together members of its livestock sector group to focus on key challenges and risks faced by livestock transporters in their businesses.

He said the group recognised early on that it couldn’t solve those problems alone, as many activities in the sector are influenced by the actions of others in the chain.

He said they also realised there was a need to involve sector regulators such as the Ministry for Primary Industries, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and WorkSafe NZ in the process.

“We want them to understand the priorities that we came up with, the uncertainties that sometimes exist in the supply chain, such as short lead times and notice periods for the need to transport stock and some of the design challenges around the pick-up and drop-off of stock,” Leggett said.

The Health and Safety at Work Act contains a chain of responsibility principle but Leggett said that has never really been properly exercised.

“What we want is for people at each stage of the supply chain to take responsibility and recognise that what they ask their customers to do, the rates they pay, the conditions they set, has a direct impact on the safety and performance of other parts of the chain,” he said.

Background work on provisional wording of the charter is basically completed and he said a number of stakeholders have already indicated that they are willing to take part in discussions to try and make a charter a reality.

They include farmer representatives, meat processing companies, stock agents and regulators.

“They’re engaged in this and we expect that it will be a healthy, robust process,” he said.

“As an industry we’ve very clearly set out our concerns, brought them to the table, and they have been responded to.

“In my mind there is no room for people to wriggle their way out of this discussion.”

He has been impressed by the support of Federated Farmers, which has helped with the drafting of the charter, and is optimistic that the issues involved are well understood by everyone involved.

“Transport operators carry a fair bit of the load right now (but) there’s market power held by more powerful people, more powerful parts of the chain, and they (transport operators) have essentially been given responsibility for things they can’t control,” he said.

“That has to stop.”

He said if the issues are not addressed it is going to become increasingly difficult to recruit truck drivers in the future for an industry that is already dealing with significant staff shortages, which will affect farmers down the track.

“It’s working hours, it’s stress, it’s labour supply, pay rates, they are all wound up with this,” he said.

“We want people to drive our trucks, we want them to be paid fairly, we want them to work in good conditions and we want animal wellbeing to be top priority.

“We want our businesses to be sustainable.”

He said the charter will also include the design of facilities at pick-up and drop-off points, along with the readiness and condition of animals picked up from farms.

The goal of ongoing discussions around the charter is for good communication among all those involved.

“We want these things to be clear and on the table so that we can work out some good practice, some agreed practice, between the different sectors in this chain, so that those people who don’t uphold that on all sides know that there will be consequences,” he said.

“We’re serious about this because transport operators in different sectors often lack the influence in the chain of responsibility but often get left holding, in this case, the cattle beast.”

Waka Kotahi has agreed to chair the group that will discuss the proposed charter in more detail and Leggett expects those discussions to get under way in the next month or two.

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