Brad Gardner, 20 March 2016

Owner-drivers have gathered to send a message to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

Truck drivers have taken to the streets south of Brisbane to protest the introduction of minimum pay rates for owner-drivers.

Close to 100 people rallied at Berrinba and then took part in a convoy to publicise their concerns about the impending scheme, which will require owner-drivers to be paid set hourly and kilometre rates from April 4.

The measure, from the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), is designed to ensure owner-drivers receive a viable rate to do their job safely and make a living. However, critics are concerned the scheme will lead to owner-drivers losing their livelihood instead.

Trucks taking part in the convoy were decked out with banners proclaiming minimum rates would spell the end of owner-drivers. The vehicles wound their way through Berrinba and out to the BP service station at Archerfield.

The rally attracted political support, with Queensland senator Glenn Lazarus speaking at the event to declare he would fight against the RSRT’s plans.

“At the end of the day I am going to make as much noise as I can possibly make about this because this is absolute bullshit what they are doing to you guys,” he told the assembled crowd, which broke out in claps and cheers in response.

Owner-driver Rodney Chant, who runs Chant Trans and played a hand in organising the convoy, urged all owner-drivers to get involved to delay the introduction of minimum rates.

The RSRT is due to decide before the end of March if it will postpone minimum rates until January 1, 2017and phase them in gradually. It has given the trucking industry until 12pm, March 21 to lodge written submissions about varying the start date.

Chant told the rally a delay would give owner-drivers the chance to restructure their business to comply with the requirements of the RSRT’s ruling.

“We need to get those submissions [in]. It is so important each and every person here states their case,” Chant told the rally.

“If we state our case, we are running onto the football field with a full team. We’re not running onto the football field with 10 players and six sitting on the bench thinking maybe they will get on eventually.

“We’re not going to stop this order but if we make enough noise to the right people in the correct manner, and by numbers…that’s what we need.”

Organisers of today’s rally handed out information packs and had people on hand to help attendees write submissions. Most attendees were mainly concerned about minimum rates pricing them out of the market for work.

Sections of the trucking industry have argued the RSRT-mandated rates are too high and will encourage businesses to use large transport fleets instead of owner-drivers.

Furthermore, many in the industry are still unaware about the scheme even though the RSRT announced it in December last year to give affected parties four months to prepare.

Many people at today’s rally reported only becoming aware of the RSRT’s order in the last three weeks.

The lack of awareness has been a key argument put to the tribunal as to why it should revise the April 4 start date.

The Australian Industry Group, NatRoad, the New South Wales Business Chamber and the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association believe not enough information has been provided to the industry to help it prepare.

Today’s rally followed the RSRT’s hearing on March 15 about applications to vary minimum rates. Owner-drivers and their supporters tried to use the hearing to air their concerns about the RSRT’s plan, but they struggled to be heard.

Extracted in full from Owner Driver.