While the company has not yet confirmed a move to Australia, is has flagged a potential expansion to other countries.
Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson said Amazon had “already proven to be unscrupulous in the way they go about building up their business model”, using a loss-leading approach in its freight operations overseas.
“That just indicates the level of remuneration they’re expecting to pay into our industry,” Mr Anderson said.
Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine said the industry needs regulation to ensure “Uber Freight and Amazon’s online freight system does not drive down [safety] standards further, obliterate our industry and result in even more deaths on our roads.”
He said some large retailers, manufacturers and oil companies put pressure on transport operators by demanding lower contract rates, leading to compromised safety maintenance and truck drivers speeding and driving for longer hours.
“We have a catastrophic event happening in our industry almost every day where someone is killed,” Mr Kaine said. “This inquiry will shine a light on what goes on in an industry when the profits of wealthy companies at the top are put ahead of people’s lives.”
Labor Senator Glenn Sterle said he expected “all sides of politics” to endorse the inquiry when Parliament resumes next month.
He said the road transport industry “has some serious issues that it needs to discuss,” and the issue was “as important to the Morrison government as it would have been for a Shorten government”.
Dozens of industry representatives, owner drivers, trucking company executives, retailers and unionists agreed the inquiry should examine the impact of new technologies to ensure a “viable, safe, sustainable and efficient” road transport industry.
The agreed terms of reference also highlighted “the importance of an enforceable minimum award rate and sustainable standards and conditions for all stakeholders”.
FBT Transwest Managing Director Cameron Dunn said while transport operators wanted to keep their businesses safe and sustainable, market pressures led to cost cutting measures.
“We need to talk about what we can do to ensure that we are not taken advantage of as an industry, as the bottom tier in the food chain, as the people with the least leverage in contract negotiations,” Mr Dunn said.
“If you’re losing money you’ve got to do things in terms of how you operate which will drive you to the lowest common denominator, and that’s not a good thing for the public or for our social responsibility.”
The TWU has been fighting gig economy app creators with varying success, with the Fair Work Commission finding Deliveroo drivers to be employees entitled to annual leave, but the Fair Work Ombudsman declaring Uber drivers to be private contractors.
The union also wants a return of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal which used to set minimum rates for truck drivers, but was abolished by the Coalition in 2016.
Former TWU Secretary Tony Sheldon, now a Labor Senator, said in his maiden speech last month that disruptor tech companies such as Uber for “pillaging” the Australian economy and harming worker rights.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.