Over the past few weeks many truck owners have contacted me regarding the impending Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order.
This Order has been made by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal: a body established by the Labor Government in 2012 at the insistence of the Transport Workers Union and supported by Nick Xenophon. The Tribunal is independent, meaning it does not take direction from Government.
The Tribunal’s Order makes it mandatory for self-employed owner-drivers carrying goods long-haul or across state borders to charge ‘safe rates’. This order does not apply to larger trucking companies that employ drivers.
In short, the Order fixes rates for transporting freight which are generally above current rates and will price many truck owners out of business. For example, a trip by an owner-driver that would usually cost a client $175 will under ‘safe rates’ cost the client $784. If this amount is not charged, the client will be prosecuted by the Fair Work Ombudsman and fined up to $54,000.
76 per cent of all road transport operators use the owner-driver model. If this Order comes into effect it is likely that this sector of the industry made up of small family businesses will be forced into bankruptcy and this work will be transferred to the large companies. The industry will transform into one made up entirely of employers and employees.
The operation of the Order, which was scheduled to come into effect on 4 April 2016, has been postponed by a Federal Court Injunction granted on the 1 April.
The Government will introduce legislation on 18 April that, if passed will ensure the Order issued by the Tribunal will not commence before 1 January 2017, allowing Government and industry time to review the predicament the Labor Party and Union movement have put us in.
I will be calling for the legislation introduced in 2012 to be repealed and the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to be abolished. I will do so in the knowledge that there is no evidence linking increased charges to improved safety outcomes. If there was the Order would apply to all trucking operations not just those of small family run businesses.
It is clear to me and many of my colleagues in Canberra that creating this Tribunal had nothing to do with safety but rather a desire by the Transport Workers Union to crush the business model of the 35,000 owner-drivers operating across our nation.
A road transport industry made up exclusively of employee drivers will lend itself to unionisation. It deeply concerns me to think that such a vital industry could be controlled entirely by the Unions. A nationwide transport strike would be simply devastating.
It is clear to all that the establishment of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and its ‘safe rates’ are about strengthening the Transport Workers Union not improving safety, after all without this Tribunal and its ‘safe rates’ road deaths involving trucks have declined close to 30 percent over the seven years from 2009.
In the interests of the 35,000 owner drivers and those that rely on a competitive and efficient transport system this extraordinarily dangerous Labor/Union proposal must be squashed.