Industry groups baulk at regulated rates


Trucking groups warn against setting freight rates, with one claiming there is no evidence owner-drivers are being exploited

By Brad Gardner

Trucking industry groups are arguing against government intervention in the marketplace, with one instead proposing an interstate owner-driver regulatory regime.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) and the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) reject claims setting a rate will deliver greater safety benefits in the industry.

In their submissions to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) review into remuneration methods, both groups advocate free market reign, with the VTA warning of the political risks the Federal Government will take if it attempts to regulate freight rates.

VTA Chief Executive Phil Lovel believes a manipulated market will result in higher prices for consumer goods, leaving politicians responsible for supermarket price hikes.

Lovel instead wants an industry council similar to the tribunal that exists in Victoria to focus on interstate owner-driver operations.

He wants this council made up of unions, employee associations, prime contractors and specialists drawn from within the transport and logistics industry.

In his submission, Lovel calls for an award-based system to continue alongside state regulations.

Despite Professor Ann Williamson citing reports linking pay methods to safety, QTA Chief Executive Peter Garske claims the QTA "is not aware of any evidence which directly links driver payment methods to safety outcomes".

Garske argues owner-drivers already have enough avenues to seek compensation if they are paid an unsustainable rate, such as owner-driver tribunals in Victoria and Western Australia and the Independent Contractors Act 2006.

"The QTA rejects intervention into the commercial transactions in the free market specifically to influence payments systems for operators," he writes in his submission.

According to Garske, there is no evidence "many thousands" of trucking operators want contracts regulated. He also claims "there is no empirical evidence" independent contractors are being exploited.

The Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation’s (ARTIO) submission echoes the QTA’s, arguing owner-drivers do not need government intervention to help them recoup costs.

It wants the Transport Workers (Long Distance Drivers) Award 2000 "revitalised" so it can be included in the Rudd Government’s new industrial relations legislation.

The organisation also referred to the recent court ruling involving Riteway Transport, which found the company guilty of acting unfairly in trying to force sub-contractors to upgrade their vehicles without adequate remuneration.

"This case shows that there are currently some federal statutory protections to ensure that contractors can take action when faced with what could be termed ‘unconscionable conduct’," the ARTIO’s submission says.

The NTC is currently conducting a review into the link between pay methods and safety in the heavy vehicle industry. It is also examining the adequacy of remuneration methods such as freight rates and fuel levies.

The NTC will compile its findings into a report to be handed to the Australian Transport Council (ATC) in November.




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