Rural transporters reject minimum rate plan for contract drivers

Beef Central, 25/09/2015

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) says it has rejected a proposal by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to establish mandatory minimum payments for all contract drivers, usually known as owner-drivers.

The proposal is contained in the RSRT draft Road Safety Remuneration Order (RSRO) – Contractor Driver Minimum Payment Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 , which has just closed for public comment.

ALRTA President Grant Robins said the draft RSRO is unworkable in the rural transport sector.

“The Australian road transport industry is made up of many different types of vehicles, freight, tasks, operating conditions and prevailing charging structures.  It is simply not possible to set one type of minimum rate for the entire freight contracting industry,” Mr Robins said.

“The rural transport sector is particularly complex.  Owner-drivers are prime contractors one day and sub-contractors the next.  A single return trip can involve multiple customers and destinations, mixed loads, part loads, empty running between some loading points, and ‘side work’ that happens to fit in with the primary task being undertaken.

“The minimum rates as proposed do not take this complexity into account and will lead to increased confusion and disputes.  Some trucks would have to run empty even when there is viable freight available because the proposed rates are too simplistic and far too high.”

In a submission to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, the ALRTA has also cited concerns that the RSRO will push owner-drivers out of the industry in favour or employee drivers.

“On first glance, some owner-drivers may be attracted to the prospect of an increase in their rates.  However, prime contractors who use their own vehicles staffed with employee drivers will not be subject to the minimum rates in the draft order and will be free to accept work at comparatively lower rates”, said President Robins.

“Prime contractors will not sub-contract work to owner-drivers when they are forced to pay rates in excess of that which they are charging as the prime contractor.  This will effectively price owner-drivers out of the market and will force a structural shift towards employee drivers.  The big fleets will get bigger and this will come at the expense of smaller operators, many of whom will lose their business and personal assets during the transition”, he said.

The ALRTA said it has also identified a range of other problems with the RSRO including new layers of red-tape arising from increased audits, impacts on pre-existing contracts and the apparent requirement to pay contract drivers for long rest breaks.

Source: ALRTA. For more information on the Draft Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 visit the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s website here. 


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