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Drivers score superannuation win

Trucking told to pay superannuation based on kilometre rates, exposing operators to higher superannuation bills

By Steve Skinner | January 25, 2013

Long distance truck drivers are claiming a victory in securing increased superannuation payments.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued letters to road freight companies saying they need to pay superannuation on the basis of a driver’s kilometre rate, not the weekly award rate of pay, which is usually lower.

Superannuation is paid on ordinary time earnings (OTE), which means ordinary hours of work excluding overtime.

“Recent audits have revealed that some employers who operate in long distance transport may not be meeting their super obligations due to a misunderstanding of how to correctly calculate ordinary time earnings (OTE) for long distance truck drivers,” says a letter seen by ATN, dated January 21.

“In broad terms, our view is that the OTE of a long distance driver would be the amount paid under either the hourly rate or cents per kilometre method …. excluding the overtime allowance,” the letter states.

The letter says that some employers may be relying on ATO advice given in 1995, which said that where a driver was paid on a cents per kilometre basis, ordinary earnings could be calculated according to the weekly award rate of pay.

“This advice is no longer correct and may no longer be relied upon,” the ATO letter says.

It says the ATO commissioner’s current view is contained in an interpretation of ordinary earnings set out in Superannuation Guarantee Ruling SGR 2009/2, dating back to May 2009.

“You need to immediately review your calculations and ensure that you’re providing the correct amount of superannuation for your employees,” the letter says.

“We’ll be checking compliance in the transport industry as part of our continuing compliance program starting 1 January 2013” the letter warns.

The ATO told ATN in an email: “We wrote to all employers (roughly 20,000) and their tax agents (roughly 7,000) in the road freight industry on the 21st January 2013.

“Specific help for employers on how to calculate superannuation guarantee for long distance drivers is published on the ATO website,” the ATO says.

Employer and employee representatives have been arguing the toss over the superannuation issue for years.

“What can you say? We lost,” Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) CEO Peter Garske says.

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to give up. The implications are roughly $1,000 per employee per year.”

Garske likens the situation to building workers having their superannuation calculated on the basis of a 55-hour week, rather than 38 ordinary hours.
However, Long Haul Drivers Association President Brian Turpie disputes the comparison.

“We only get paid while the truck’s turning a wheel, we don’t get paid otherwise,” he says.

“We feel vindicated. We’re getting there.”

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