At the recent conference for the national livestock trucking industry, two fundamental issues for livestock transport were discussed and the latest developments explained to the audience.
There is a very specific reason as to why many rural trucking operators become members of separate industry associations from those representing most of the trucking industry. Many of the problems with which the industry has to deal with are sector-specific. As a result, Australia has a strong group of State rural carrier associations as well as a national peak body – the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association.
This year it was the turn of the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of South Australia to host the national livestock conference in Adelaide. Each year the national ALRTA conference moves from state to state.
As part of the discussions at this conference, two fundamental issues which affect livestock transport all over Australia were brought into the limelight. There is the issue of effluent falling from the trucks onto the roads and the associated problems created by this. The second is about workplace health and safety for drivers trying to load livestock crates and having to work at heights during the loading process.
The grassroots of the industry are lobbying for improved policy and procedures for these problem areas. In the current program for the ALRTA there are a number of ongoing programs.
Safer Loading Facilities and Procedures
One of these is to develop a national ramp standard which can be applied to facilities where animals are loaded and unloaded. There is also project to trial a user pays safe loading frame which has been under test Victoria for some time.
One the people who has been driving a project to fit loading frames at sites where livestock trucks load and unload has been John Beer, who is currently Vice President of both the ALRTA the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria. A few operators have been involved dealing with farms, saleyards and abattoirs.
Because there is no national standard for loading and unloading ramps, it is very difficult for livestock transport operators who are in and out of these facilities to get their operators to modernise and make their loading facilities safe for drivers.
The ALRTA has published a guide to safe ramp design, and operators are being encouraged to hand these over at facilities which are not up to scratch. Unfortunately, the word guide is included in the title, and there is no imperative for the facility owners to make safer loading facilities available.
The drive to develop a loading ramp standard was kicked off when an unfortunate truck driver in Stawell in country Victoria was killed when a loading ramp failed. After the ensuing inquest, the coroner involved asked why there was no standard in Australia for the construction of animal loading ramps. The process has developed slowly from this point.
“We are sending three representatives to meeting with Standards Australia at the start of the development of the new standard,” said John. “We are likely to have a fair bit of influence on the development of the standard.”
Parallel to this process has been the development of a pivoting loading frame, which can be used by the driver to access the livestock trailers and the animals on board without having to indulge in dangerous practice is like climbing up the outside of the cattle crate or walking along the trailer roof.
There is an example of this design in a Victorian abattoir. It’s basically a series of walkways and gates, which can be rolled up to the side of the trailers using powered wheels.
“The safety access frame is a case trial of the concept of the driver being separated from the animals. It enables drivers to be working at heights and not in direct contact with the animals on board but still able to unload the trailers.
“In 2017, the ALRTA Animal Welfare Committee proposed a trial it to build a pivoting access frame at a facility,” said Sue Davies, ALRTA Project Officer. “This was to test feasibility of a user-pays access system, which could recover access frame costs.
“A site in southeast Queensland was chosen for the trial. During the process of installation there have been a number of technical challenges requiring site-specific solutions, now the frame moves parallel rather than pivoting towards the trailer.
“The research phase of the project will see a 12-week user-pays trial to establish a price point that people are willing to pay. During this time the use of the frame will be voluntary. The price is expected to be somewhere between $5 and $15 per usage.
“We will then be able to calculate the length of time it will take to payback the original construction costs. If this model proves viable, it will, hopefully, encourage other facility operators to offer this kind of safety equipment.”