A NEW set of national guidelines has been developed to help ensure the safety of truck drivers and improve animal welfare outcomes during the loading and unloading of livestock across Australia.
Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) is expected to release the voluntary guidelines within a fortnight for public consultation.
ALRTA has worked with stakeholders from all levels of the livestock supply chain to develop the guide, which sets out legal obligations in relation to workplace health and safety and animal welfare at loading ramps.
The guidelines provide detail on the risks, hazards and controls at ramps and include a series of safe designs for small on-farm loading ramps through to multi-deck ramps at commercial facilities such as saleyards and processing plants.
"Our members report anecdotally that there are some facilities out there that are dangerous by modern standards."
ALRTA executive director Matt Munro said the death of a truck driver at a Victorian ramp last year, and anecdotal evidence of frequent "near misses", prompted ALRTA to develop the guidelines.
"Our guys are unlikely to complain if they just bang up their hand or have a near miss but we see this as an important first step in getting some more awareness around this issue," he said.
"Our members report anecdotally that there are some facilities out there that are dangerous by modern standards. In many cases the trucks have changed but the ramps have stayed the same."
Mr Munro said ALRTA had liaised with many stakeholders - including Cattle Council of Australia (CCA), agents, saleyards operators, producer groups, exporters, lotfeeders, government agencies and animal welfare groups - in developing the guide.
He expects the guide to be released for public consultation within the fortnight and hopes to launch it at the ALRTA national conference in Western Australia on July 4.
Queensland Livestock and Rural Transporters Association president David Scott hopes the guide will bring ramps at Queensland saleyards up to scratch.
Mr Scott said he was disappointed some existing ramps were not improved during a $12.6 million upgrade that was officially opened at Dalby Saleyards yesterday.
"It's very frustrating for us because over half of all accidents happen in the loading and unloading of livestock."
"Dalby is a wonderful facility and it's great to see them spend some money on it but it is quite concerning to our association that the place that receives and delivers 80 per cent of the cattle - the loading ramps - have not been properly upgraded," he said.
"The ramps are poor and the forcing part, the loading out and loading in, are all of a second rate standard."
Mr Scott said there were similar issues at other many saleyards including Gracemere, which he said was poorly lit.
"I've had two phone calls from members in the past week about the lighting at Gracemere," he said.
"It's very frustrating for us because over half of all accidents happen in the loading and unloading of livestock.
"We also see it with producers - they'll spend $50,000 on a brand new set of yards and they'll have a portable loading ramp to get the cattle in and out."
Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown said he was disappointed to hear Mr Scott's feedback on the newly upgraded Dalby yards but would investigate his concerns.
Cr Brown said he believed a number of new ramps had been built as part of the upgrade but admitted some old ramps had not been improved.
"It all comes down to affordability and we need to get a bit of return back to the vendors but I'm happy to look at the issues," he said.
"The main thing is that we have a set of saleyards that are safe for everyone."