Little response to NTC review, but support for change

As few as seven people have responded to the NTC's review, but all support overhaul of current remuneration methods

By Brad Gardner

The National Transport Commission’s review into remuneration methods in the trucking industry is struggling to draw responses, but there is support for government intervention in the marketplace.

The NTC has only published seven stakeholders submissions regarding payment methods despite the fact the Rudd Government announced the review on July 25 and the deadline for submissions is today.

A spokesman for the NTC says submissions are published as they are received. He also says it is not possible to determine the level of interest at this stage of the review, which will shortly begin "targeted consultation" with industry groups and individuals.

"It is too early to say. It is only early days; we are still in receiving mode," he says.

According to the spokesman, key industry groups have told the NTC they will be submitting responses beyond the deadline.

The submissions received are all critical of existing remuneration methods, saying they are ineffective in ensuring owner-drivers receive adequate compensation.

Citing reports into pay methods, the University of New South Wales’ Ann Williamson claims there is "a clear link between driver payment, fatigue and stimulant use".

Williamson, who is Professor of Aviation Safety in the Department of Aviation, says drug use is a characteristic of long distance truck driving and will only change when productivity-based payments stop.

The academic called for government intervention in the marketplace, supporting a salary or wage system and a decrease in the number of allowable work hours per week.

"Clearly leaving the industry to address this issue has not been successful," she says.

"Therefore, it is essential that government takes a role to intervene to make payment systems for long distance truck drivers more compatible with safety."

Williamson also echoes the TWU’s stance, saying government may need to set a minimum freight rate flexible enough to accommodate volatile fuel prices.

Frank Black, an owner-driver who sits on the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Council, criticises loading and unloading methods, which force drivers to wait in queues for hours without pay.

Furthermore, he says many companies are not passing on correct levies, instead telling sub-contractors to "take it or leave it" because they can find someone else to do the job.

Paul Freestone, who operates a transport company in Victoria and is the Victorian Transport Association’s (VTA) president, recommends a system similar to the taxi industry, which requires payment upon completion, or the airline industry, which charges rates before the task.

In his submission, Freestone also supports government intervention in fuel surcharges, payment terms and setting a minimum rate.

Under its terms of reference, the NTC is reviewing pay methods and rates for employee drivers and owner-drivers, looking at the impact of remuneration on safety and how chain of responsibility measures can be applied to the issue.

Following this, the NTC will present its findings in a report to the Australian Transport Council when it meets in November. Its report will recommend how to address any safety issues the review uncovers.

The former president of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, Lance Wright, and Professor Michael Quinlan—responsible for Beyond the Midnight Oil report—are assisting the NTC.

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