PM given deadline to meet owner-driver demands

By: Jason Whittaker

The Rudd Government has been given until June 6 to reply to owner-driver demands or risk potential mass strikes over

The Rudd Government has been given until June 6 to reply to owner-driver demands or risk potential mass strikes over the weekend.

Following a horn-tooting convoy through Brisbane last week, the Australian Long Distance Owner & Drivers Association (ALDODA) contacted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s office to negotiate a deal to increase owner-driver pay rates along with other demands.

According to organiser Lyn Bennetts, the group told Rudd’s office it had until Friday to agree to an hourly pay rate for owner-drivers of $30 or ALDODA would call on all truckies to park and refuse to work.

Bennetts, who is ALDODA’s Queensland president, is also pushing for drivers to be paid $19.20 for every hour after the first hour they spend queuing to load or unload their trucks.

Bennetts says the hourly pay rate is necessary because more and more owner-drivers are struggling to absorb cost increases, with many having to declare bankruptcy.

The proposed pay rates stem from the group’s own cost modelling based on a Brisbane to Melbourne trip. The cost sheet took into account insurance, fuel, maintenance and registration costs as well as meal allowances, road tolls, taxes and mobile phone use.

Bennetts says the figures were compiled by ALDODA with advice from a finance broker.

ALDODA’s demands also extend to the price of fuel, which continue to rise as the price of oil continues to hit record-high prices. Bennetts says she has told Rudd’s senior adviser the Government needs to scrap the 38 cent fuel excise because owner-drivers cannot continue to pay exorbitant fuel prices.

"We all need this because there is no other option," she says.

"Every time you turn around they are hitting you with an additional tax. They will be taxing us to breathe next it’s getting that serious."

The group is also calling for back loading to be abolished and a moratorium on logbook fines until all parking bays have toilets, showers and cooking facilities, stands to take the weight of B-doubles and road trains and shaded areas for sleeping.

Support for the action has grown over the course of meetings ALDODA held last month, according to Bennetts. She says truckies from all over the country are lending support as well as big-name companies.

"We have even had fleet owners with 130 trucks ringing up and saying, ‘If you take any action we will come on board’," she says.

Bennetts declined to name the companies, only saying "they are very well known and have been in the industry a very long time".

The Government originally asked for a few months to reply to the demands, but Bennetts says she refused because a lot of owner-drivers would have declared bankruptcy by then.

ATN contacted Rudd’s office, which is yet to reply.

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