Brad Gardner, 16 February 2016

Petition says the industry needs more time to consider the effects of minimum pay rates before they are introduced.

A truck driver is petitioning for the introduction of minimum rates for owner-drivers to be pushed back to give businesses more time to understand how the reform will affect their operations.

Daniel Cozzolino has uploaded a petition to directed at the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), which is responsible for introducing minimum rates, and federal small business minister Kelly O’Dwyer.

In the petition, Cozzolino raises concerns the new regime, due to begin on April 4, will price owner-drivers out of the market and that there has been little information supplied to the industry about it since it was announced in late December 2015.

Under the RSRT’s order, companies using owner-drivers (classified as ‘contractor drivers’) involved in linehaul and supermarket distribution work will need to pay them at least minimum hourly and kilometre rates. The rates will vary based on the task being performed and the equipment being used.

Payment must be made for time spent driving, queuing to load or unload, taking mandatory fatigue management rest breaks and filling out paperwork such as work diaries.

“The legislation is due to commence on 4th April 2016 which leaves little time with so much to do.  I would like to see a six month extension on the start date be made so that the effects of the Act are properly considered before it’s too late for our hard working small business operators,” Cozzolino says in the petition.

Since creating the petition last week, Cozzolino has garnered 273 supporters.

Like Cozzolino, many supporters have expressed fears that the scheme could make it financially unviable for companies to continue using owner-drivers because the rates will be too high.

“I’m a truck driver and diesel mechanic who hopes to continue a family tradition and own my own transport company. If this is implemented in the wrong way it will destroy the transport industry for small family operators,” petition supporter Chris Campbell says.

Another supporter and transport operator, Gordo MacKinlay, fears he will become bankrupt through a lack of work, while Matthew Reichelt claims large firms are already informing owner-drivers they will not be used when minimum rates begin.

“This will make owner-drivers extinct,” he says.

While others also believe owner-drivers will be sent to the wall from April 4, Alan Keam says businesses are already working below the poverty line due to rates being set “ridiculously low”.

“Transport running cost are high by the time you make truck and fuel payment there is not even funds for repairs let alone money to live on [and] support a family,” Keam says.

The RSRT’s order is designed to ensure owner-drivers earn enough to complete their jobs safely and earn a living.

Although the order sets rates specifically for owner-drivers, its influence will be felt throughout the transport supply chain.

Firms such as supermarket chains that hire large transport companies must ensure they pay enough so those companies can then afford to pay the RSRT’s required rate to owner-drivers, if they sub-contract work to them.

Industry group NatRoad, which opposes minimum rates for owner-drivers, last week blasted the RSRT for not providing enough information to transport operators about the new scheme.

Extracted in full from Owner Driver.