The Transport Workers’ Union  has fired a salvo at  the ATA  and called  for a change of direction given recent changes of leadership at the industry body.

The TWU has called for the ATA to join the rest of the industry in fighting for regulatory reforms on rates and safety, amid the leadership change at the association.

CEO of the ATA, Ben McGuire announced  his resignation last week  and this follows Geoff Crouch stepping down as chairman in May, after just one year of a two-year term.

The TWU says these developments come as controversy continues around the ATA’s involvement in a letter from the ACCC threatening jail to a truck driver over comments he made in an opinion article.

TWU national secretary, Michael Kaine said the ATA has an opportunity to put in place leaders who adhere to the association’s original objective in advocating for the lifting of standards across road transport.

“This is a chance for the ATA to leave behind the ideology which has prevented it from representing our industry and arguing for real change. There is a dire problem in our industry with wealthy clients at the top demanding lower rates and financially squeezing operators and drivers. Not only is this leading to financial hardship and bankruptcies, it is causing safety to be compromised,” he said.

“We don’t want truck driving to be Australia’s deadliest job and we want the pressure ended on operators to delay truck maintenance and on drivers to work long hours, speed and skip breaks. The ATA should be doing everything it can to change this in a serious way, instead it has argued against regulatory change and proposed weak voluntary codes which play right into the hands of retailers, manufacturers and oil companies who make huge profits by squeezing transport,” he said.

“The ATA has turned its back in recent years on its founding principles, born out of the tragedy of the Grafton crash in 1989 which killed 21 people. The association did not even commemorate the 30 year anniversary of this tragedy last December, it has flouted its own rules on staying out of industrial relations and is refusing to answer questions on what involvement it had on the ACCC’s attack on an owner driver and a member of the ATA general council.”

“Now is a chance to make changes. If it fails to do so, we suggest it gets out of the way and lets the rest of the industry get on with the job of working for reform,” Kaine added.

The TWU  says that both the ACCC and the ATA have failed to answer TWU questions concerning the reasoning behind the letter to driver and TWU member Frank Black threatening jail over an opinion article in a transport trade magazine.

The union says I its statement that the number of people killed in truck crashes rose to 176 deaths in the 12 months to March, from 167 the previous year, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Of the 100 workers killed so far this year, 33 have been transport workers, by far the highest numbers of workers killed, according to Safe work Australia.

It goes on to say that according to data from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, there were 141 insolvencies among companies in the transport, postal and warehousing sector between January and June this year.