No-one, and especially not the fuel transport industry, will ever argue against the need to ensure that all reasonable efforts are consistently made to ensure that heavy vehicle operations in Australia are as safe as possible.

That being said, it is fast becoming clear that the RSRT is not the best mechanism for achieving this aim.

Having reviewed the RSRT Discussion Paper released by the Federal Government two weeks ago, and participated in the subsequent industry consultations this week, ACAPMA believes that there is an urgent need for wholesale change to the operation of the tribunal if it is to be effective in lifting the safety performance of the Australian heavy vehicle industry.

“Key amongst our concerns is the absence of formal checks and balances on the deliberations and decisions of the RSRT – and its absolute powers over all other road safety regulations and regulatory authorities despite not having recognised road safety expertise, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“This is the only tribunal in the country where its decisions can only be reviewed by itself – and it is hard to see why any tribunal afforded this luxury would reverse its own decisions”, said Mark.

ACAPMA’s involvement with the RSRT commenced in September 2014 as a result of the TWU launching an application for an Order for the transport of fuel, oil and gas (RTO 2014/2).

Since this time, ACAPMA worked hard with other industry stakeholders to walk-back a number of very aggressive provisions outlined in the TWU application on the basis that they duplicated existing oversight and/or had no bearing on road safety.

With Oil, Fuel and Gas now being added to the RSRT Work Programme, the fuel transport industry is heavily engaged with the Tribunal as it prepares to consider an Order that will have an impact on every fuel carrier in the Country.

ACAPMA’s experience to date suggests that the current operation of the RSRT is flawed – and that the current outrage in respect of the Retail Rates Order appears justified.

“Despite being required under the Act, the Tribunal is simply not equipped to investigate the substantive commercial, economic and employment issues that are inherent in the making of a remuneration order for transport operators”, said Mark.

ACAPMA’s concerns about the operation of the RSRT are similar to those outlined in the 2016 Price Waterhouse Coopers Review and the 2014 Jaguar Review that were distributed with the Government’s Discussion Paper.

Specifically, ACAPMA is concerned about the level of regulatory and legislative overlap with other key transport and work safety bodies.

“Perhaps of greatest concern is the absence of a set of screening criteria applied to the RSRT application process which, in our view, allows an applicant to put forward an application that may have no road safety justification”, said Mark.

There is also a clear need to require that a needs analysis – one that demonstrates consultation with key stakeholders -be submitted with any application lodged with the RSRT for an Order.

While there may be a need for the continued operation of the RSRT, major changes need to be made if Tribunal it is to have any chance of achieving its’ legislated objectives.

ACAPMA believes that the best mechanism for achieving this objective is to pursue a future option for the operation of the RSRT that amends the existing Act to make explicit provision for the following:

a) Making acceptance of applications dependent on the submission of a comprehensive needs analysis by the applicant, including evidence of consultation with key stakeholders to the proposed Order.

b) Requiring the Tribunal to undertake a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), to publish the RIS and to secure stakeholder feedback on same before the making of an Order.

c) Limiting the focus and powers of the Tribunal solely to remuneration matters affecting contractor drivers and the resolution of disputes relating to the remuneration of contractor drivers.

d) Making provision of for appeals to be made against Tribunal decisions by an appropriate independent body.

In the event that the above changes cannot be reasonably made to the current Legislation, ACAPMA’s firm position is that there would be a need to repeal the RSRT legislation.

The above discussion really leads to the inevitable conclusion that perhaps too much needs to be fixed – and that it is time to start again.