12 February 2016

RSRT did not respond to important questions about the impact of minimum rates for owner-drivers.

Trucking operators who attended a recent meeting to learn about impending minimum rates for owner-drivers left with more questions than answers.

Representative group NatRoad has expressed frustration toward the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) for not answering questions put to it from operators during a meeting held on February 9.

RSRT president Jennifer Acton was the keynote speaker and she covered the minimum rates regime, which was announced in December last year and will begin on April 4.

But when it came time to answer questions from attendees, Acton declined on the basis providing a response could pose problems for her if she had to rule on a matter relating to minimum rates.

NatRoad says some 60 people involved in the trucking industry attended the meeting and left without answers to questions relating to the coverage of the order, how its success is being measured and if a regulatory impact statement had been carried out before a decision to implement it was made.

Acton advised attendees to read the order, seek legal advice, make their own judgements and to refer any questions to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), which will be responsible for enforcing minimum rates.

NatRoad claims people contacting the FWO for advice have received no help, with some being advised to call the RSRT instead.

“This nonsense is of no value to operators attempting to understand and comply with this very complex order, which appears to threaten the ongoing viability of thousands of owner-operator transport businesses,” NatRoad says in a statement.

Specifically, NatRoad is concerned about the coverage of the order. The RSRT says minimum rates apply to ‘contractor drivers’.

“‘Contractor drivers’ are primarily family operated transport businesses where the vehicle owner/s and their immediate family drive the vehicles. There is considerable confusion as to the break point between ‘contractor drivers’ and other operators,” NatRoad says.

It believes the new rates will lead to businesses trying to engage non-contractor drivers to avoid using the new rates structure.

“With few exceptions, most hirers surveyed by NatRoad have indicated that it is their intention to review whether or not they can continue to engage contractor drivers, with the possible intention of only engaging non-contractor drivers. Accordingly there is a high risk that many contractor drivers may have limited work or, at worst, no work at all as of April 4, 2016,” NatRoad says.

The group has reiterated its previous comments that the RSRT’s ruling will jeopardise the future of businesses it is intending to protect.

NatRoad wants the Federal Government to intervene in the matter to prevent the order from being introduced.

The current government does not support the RSRT but it lacks the necessary numbers in parliament to pass legislation to limit the tribunal’s powers or scrap it entirely.

Extracted in full from Owner Driver.