Safe rates must be for all: VTA

VTA backs industry-wide push for fixed pay rates, fearing a piecemeal approach will "root our industry"

By Brad Gardner | May 7, 2010

All parts of the trucking industry must be bound by ‘safe rates’ or "we’ll just root our industry", according to Victorian Transport Association Chief Executive Phil Lovel.

Speaking to attendees of this year’s Transport Workers Union (TWU) Federal Council in Canberra, Lovel feared the consequence if a government scheme focuses on one part of the industry.

He warned against a piecemeal approach such as only securing sustainable pay rates for owner-drivers or those in the long distance sector.

"We’ve got to make sure it is right across the board otherwise we’ll just root our industry," Lovel says.

"If we don’t do that, if you just target one sector of the transport industry we’ll wipe that sector out because companies will go back to their own fleets."

The VTA has supported the TWU’s campaign to overhaul pay rates; it was the only association to attend the union’s Safe Rates Summit last year.

But Lovel is adamant governments cannot just rely on a new remuneration system to fix the industry’s problems.

He agreed with TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon a comprehensive approach is needed.

"There needs to be a multi-layered approach to safe rates. It’s about client accountability and it is about looking at training initiatives. It’s about waiting times and rest areas," Sheldon told the conference.

"We need to be engaging on all those fronts and partnering where we can. And that is what will make this industry a lot safer."

The TWU’s push for a minimum wage for truck drivers gathered momentum following the release of an independent inquiry in 2008 into whether pay rates had an effect on safety.

Professor Michael Quinlan and Lance Wright QC found a link between remuneration and safety and argued for government intervention into the marketplace.

The report also recommended ending incentive-based payments such as paying drivers by the kilometre.

A study by a team of academics in the US led by Professor Michael Belzer found the probability of a truck crash fell by 36% for every 10% increase in wages.

Industrial Relations Minister Julia Gillard last year established an advisory panel that includes industry representatives and business leaders to work towards a fixed rates scheme for the trucking industry.

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