With the ongoing challenge of La Niña and the threat of animal disease outbreaks, Australia’s rural trucking industry wants to future proof itself against a mass exodus of drivers.
Key points:The rural and livestock trucking industry wants to future proof against a driver exodusIt is proposing a self-insurance scheme to help drivers survive tough timesThe ALRTA is asking for government support to undertake modellingIt believes such an exodus may hold back recovery as the nation scrambles to get freight moving again.
Truck driver Warwick Fraser’s business has survived flooding rains, drought and COVID border closures, but when the roads reopened, it became clear others in the industry were not so lucky.
Mr Fraser, who owns a livestock transport company in southern Queensland, said while it was not yet at breaking point, severe driver shortages had the potential to leave the industry, and food supply, stranded.
“We’re not Robinson Crusoe but certainly, transport, and the supply of transport, has been a crunch point,” he said.
“Operating costs, fuel, diesel prices have doubled. AdBlue supply issues and pricing there have doubled.”
Frasers Livestock Transport director Warwick Fraser says it’s been a challenging few years.(Supplied: Warwick Fraser)Vital link in food supply chainThe Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) hoped to future proof the industry through a type of self-insurance scheme that would help drivers make it through tough times and prevent a shortage when movement resumed.
Executive director Matthew Munro said it was about making the supply chain more resilient.
“Without transport on the road we see staple items in supermarkets that can run out,” he said.
“Then mum and dad consumers feel that pinch pretty quickly.
“We’re an absolutely vital link in the chain.”
There is currently no compensation scheme for rural and livestock transporters.(ABC Rural: Tom Major)Mr Munro said the self-insurance scheme would be based on a current farm management deposit scheme already in place for farmers.
“In a good year [they] may have surplus income and they’re able to make a deposit into a farm management deposit scheme in that year, which would then be tax deductible,’ he said.
“It could be withdrawn later and taxed at that point.
“A later point could be a year in which the business was struggling and needed that money.”
Mr Munro said federal government support was needed to undertake modelling to see how it could work, what the costs would be, and if it would provide benefits for the rural transport industry.
A federal government spokesperson said it was open to further conversations with stakeholders where they had identified perceived shortfalls within the current system.
Building resilience Mr Munro said the scheme would be available specifically for rural and livestock transporters who were at the mercy of seasonal conditions and critical to food security, rather than the broader trucking industry.
“If your income is derived from 50 per cent rural-based businesses, I think that would be a sensible line to draw,” he said.
The ALRTA wants government support to model the scheme.(ABC Rural: Lydia Burton)He said there was currently no compensation scheme in place for rural transporters who were struggling.
Mr Munro said it meant otherwise good businesses were failing and the industry was wearing the costs.
“I think it really impacts negatively on everyone, when you have unnecessary failures of businesses that really only fail because of seasonal conditions,” he said.
Mr Fraser said it was important the industry took a proactive approach to building resilience.
“We don’t need an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease or some catastrophic event to happen that [makes] people exit the industry,” he said.
“We can’t afford for that to happen.”