The operator of three large Victorian livestock selling centres has indicated it might amend its policies and procedures, following a decision by a Gippsland consortium to restrict access to transporters to its facilities.
Victorian Livestock Exchange, which runs facilities at Pakenham, Warragul and Leongatha, has announced it intends to stop “unfettered access” to its saleyards by transporters.
That followed a court case, brought by a driver who was injured at VLE’s Pakenham facilities.
Related reading: Saleyards restrictions raise CoR questions, LRTAV
Regional Livestock Exchanges (RLX) has facilities at Ballarat, Barnawartha and Camperdown, which are managed and operated by the AA Management Investment Group (AAMIG).
AAMIG managing director Garry Edwards commended VLE on making what he said were "positive changes", and said they were changes that suited the South-East Victorian company's operations.
“RLX supports VLE’s initiatives in terms of prioritising safety enhancements at their facility and any changes,” Mr Edwards said.
He said RLX would continue its current operating policies and procedures.
“However, all policies and procedures are reviewed regularly and may be amended at some point in time in the future," he said.
All policies and procedures are reviewed regularly and may be amended at some point in time in the future.
“Safety is always a key priority for RLX, and we commend all livestock selling facility owners and operators on developing policies and procedures that suit their individual facilities and work towards achieving the highest possible safety outcomes.
"Whilst this change does not suit our style of operation, we commend VLE on making positive changes that suit their operations.
"We cannot comment on the specifics of their decision except to say that it is extremely positive that VLE have been very proactive in reviewing, amending and implementing procedures that they believe will deliver enhanced safety outcomes."
Open all hours
But at Bairnsdale, East Gippsland Livestock Exchange manager Mal Leys said there were no plans to change the operations at the facility.
“I’m on call 24/7, I’m the one with the keys,” Mr Leys said
He said while the facility had issues in the past, they had been resolved.
“Instead of locking the yards, we had a meeting, put it back in the agents' and transporters' hands, and it benefited us all," he said.
“As long as we know the cattle are here, there is no need to lock the gates."
He said it was also important that farmers and livestock operators had access to the facility, during emergencies, such as the recent Dargo bushfires.
“Because there is communication there, and everyone knows what they are doing, the saleyards will be staying open," he said.
He said the East Gippsland Shire Council would ultimately make any decision, but it would take into account the views of all exchange users.
“We won’t be following anyone else’s path; our facility belongs to the East Gippsland people," he said.
Wangaratta Livestock Exchange manager Andrea Nankervis said when the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria brought matters to its attention, they were rectified.
The board had recently appointed a livestock transporter, to advise it on safety and operating issues.
"If there's an issue he needs to fix, he'll do it, if there's an issue than needs to come to our attention, he'll let us know; he's a pretty good operator and not bombastic," Ms Nankervis said.
The member operated a fleet of trucks and was approached to join the board.
Ms Nankervis advised other livestock exchange boards to think about appointing transport operators.
“I don’t drive a truck, I don’t load cattle onto a truck, and I don’t know how loading ramps work – so I need that feedback," she said.
Ms Nankervis said there were no plans to restrict driver access at Wangaratta but added operators must also take responsibility.
South-West Victorian Livestock Exchange, Warrnambool, manager Paul White said he believed the facility had a pretty good relationship with the transport industry.
“The way we conduct our business is to keep everyone safe and send everyone home to their families," Mr White said.
He said a new double-deck race was put in several years ago, and was upgraded regularly to ensure it was safe.
“At the end of the day, we want everyone to go home," he said.
He said limiting access could result in breaching Chain of Responsibility (CoR) rules, particularly by encouraging drivers to speed to get to abattoirs in time.
“At the fall of the hammer, the stock becomes the purchaser's responsibility," Mr White said.
“If processors want stock at a particular kill time, you have to get them out at a particular time.
“As far as limiting access drivers are allowed to the saleyards, I think they are playing with fire."
CoR regulations had not "hit Victoria yet, but it's very big in NSW".
Meanwhile, the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) has written to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) about the application of CoR laws at saleyards.
NHVR is conducting an internal review of the application of CoR laws at NSW saleyards.
The review started in the wake of mass-related infringements issued to Forbes and Dubbo saleyards by NSW Roads and Maritime Service and changes to CoR laws last year.
The ALRTA has challenged the position of the Australian Livestock Markets Association that regulators should not apply the definition of ‘loading manager’ to saleyard owners, who do not also operate the facility.
An ALRTA spokesperson said all professional livestock carriers agreed the design, positioning, quality and availability of handling infrastructure had a very significant influence on heavy vehicle unloading and loading tasks.
This included direct on-site safety risks and on-road fatigue and mass risks.