A major truck transport business operating in the Riverina and Border regions has said the road freight industry is facing "safety challenges" and a "critical driver shortage".
Ron Finemore Transport general manager Scott Finemore told federal Parliament's Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee late last month that there were seven main changes that the industry needed from the government.
Mr Finemore called for a regulator system that focused on reducing risks and rewarding investment in safety rather than small details around administrative compliance, such as accounting for time driving and resting in five minute increments.
"We lose many good drivers simply because they can't afford to lose their livelihood over a simple counting mistake," Mr Finemore said.
"This isn't managing fatigue; this is bureaucracy gone mad."
Mr Finemore also called for a more "practical skills based approach" to create a pathway for new drivers to enter the industry,
"We need to encourage and support young people wanting to join the industry straight from school, especially drivers in regional areas, to help address the current critical driver shortage," he said.
"We currently lose these people who want a career in our industry. There is no apprenticeship for them to enter, for us to embrace."
Committee chairman and Labor Senator for Western Australia Glenn Sterle asked if conditions in the road freight industry were "getting tougher" and Mr Finemore said yes.
"I want the cheapest flat-screen TV I can get, too. But while we're arguing about the price difference for an onion being one cent-or for a banana or for a flat-screen TV-the price is being driven down the bottom," Senator Sterle said.
Senator Sterle asked Mr Finemore about fatigue management on his company's fleet of 250 vehicles.
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Mr Finemore said the company was doing "whatever we need to do to get the safest and the best outcome out of the contract".
"Wodonga is our head office. That helps us with our value with people and being regional. We can get drivers into and out of the city and get them back to here.
"A lot of our fleet drivers are at home every night or every second night. They're not in Sydney or Melbourne being held over. The intent is that as much as possible we'd like to get our people home and in their own beds."
Mr Finemore also criticised local governments for "making it harder and harder for drivers" to have access to basic needs like toilets, food and rest stops by increasing the use of no parking zones and load limits on roads.
Since September, the committee of Coalition, Liberal and Greens senators has held an inquiry into the "Importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry".
Mr Finemore told the inquiry's Albury and Wodonga hearing on November 22 that he had been "involved in the industry for about 40 years" and had "witnessed the massive improvements in the industry's safety practices and culture over the past 15 to 20 years".
"At the same time, the freight task has kept growing, with urban freight tasks a growing challenge," Mr Finemore said.
"We don't know how long it's going to take.
"For example, at the moment we don't know how long it's going to take, once we get to the city, to get to the delivery point or how long it's going to take to unload and reload, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney."
Senator Sterle also asked Mr Finemore to explain his company's 'seeing eye machine' that uses infrared technology to scan a driver's face for signs of fatigue while they are on the road.
Mr Finemore told the committee that the camera system sets off an alarm if it detects behaviour such as lengthy blinks or looking away from the road.
Riverina MP and Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack announced last month that the federal government will offer $5.48 million in grants for safety projects under the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative.
Earlier this year the same grants program awarded $5.4 million across 24 projects around the mental and physical safety of truck drivers.