RSRT mandates 30-day payment terms from May 2014

By: Brad Gardner


Owner-drivers must be paid within 30 days of completing work from May 1 next year, the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has ordered

RSRT mandates 30-day payment terms from May 2014
Drivers must receive written contracts and safe driving plans from May next year

Mandatory 30-day payment terms for owner-drivers will be ushered in next year as part of a string of new measures to be imposed on the trucking industry.

After more than one year of work, the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) has published its first order stipulating terms and conditions covering payments, contracts, driving plans, training and drug and alcohol policies that parties in the transport supply chain must meet.

The order, which will take effect on May 1, 2014 and run until April 30, 2018, requires companies to pay owner-drivers any undisputed amount within 30 days of receiving an invoice. The order also places restrictions on a company’s ability to make deductions.

In unveiling the order today, RSRT President Jennifer Acton singled out delays in payments for putting financial pressure on owner-drivers and encouraging them to speed, cut maintenance and exceed legal working hours so they can take on extra work to make ends meet.

"Such delays can also result in contractor drivers performing additional road transport services while fatigued or under the influence of drugs to combat fatigue so as to be able to make up the necessary cash flow," Acton says.

Despite calls from some quarters for cost calculators or minimum rates to be imposed, the order does not deal with pay rates. Acton intends on convening a conference on the issue at a date yet to be determined.

The order requires an employer or hirer to provide a driver with written contracts, which may be in electronic format, covering details of the service to be provided, the period of the contract, remuneration and work hours.

Companies must keep a record of each contract for at least seven years.

Furthermore, the RSRT has slotted in a clause requiring any party in the supply chain to make sure its actions do not breach the terms laid out in the order.

"A participant in the supply chain in relation to a road transport driver must take all reasonable measures to ensure that any contract it has with another participant in the supply chain contains provisions which are relevantly consistent with the requirements of this order," the order states.

The order requires companies to provide long-distance drivers (trips over 500km) with a written safe driving plan before they depart.

Plans must be developed in consultation with the driver and list personal details, pick-up and delivery locations, a travel plan, potential risks and anticipated timeframes for each stage of the journey.

Like written contracts, safe driving plans must be kept for at least seven years.

The order requires companies to take "all reasonable measures" to ensure drivers receive workplace health and safety training relevant to the job they are doing.

"This includes health and safety training relating to the loading and unloading of vehicles, load limits and matters of that kind which are parts of the road transport service," Acton says.

As part of the order, companies must prepare and implement a written drug and alcohol policy by May next year.

The RSRT says the policy must involve consultation with drivers and specify testing procedures, what constitutes a breach and what will happen if a breach is detected.

In handing down the order, Acton emphasised there was a link between low rates of pay and poor safety in the trucking industry.

"The material before us indicates remuneration related matters contribute to the work practices of road transport drivers," she says.

"Inadequate rates of payment pressure road transport drivers to perform more road transport services to supplement their earnings and to speed illegally, exceed working hours limits and/or not take required rest breaks to be able to do so, and/or to perform the extra road transport services while fatigued or under the influence of drugs to combat fatigue."

However, the New South Wales branch of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA NSW) claims the tribunal’s ruling will be a burden on transporters and will not save lives.  

"The order will not even achieve the tribunal’s stated objective, which is to improve the income of truck drivers. Instead, it will strangle the trucking industry in red tape," ATA NSW Manager Jodie Broadbent claims.

"The order will require employers and hirers to prepare written contracts for all their dealings with drivers, even though many jobs in our industry are done on the basis of a phone call or handshake."

Broadbent says trucking operators are already meeting rigorous safety requirements under existing workplace health and safety law and chain of responsibility legislation.

"Instead of increasing safety, the order will increase the compliance burden on the trucking industry and reduce our productivity, at a time when business productivity needs to go up," she says.

The release of the order comes amid an uncertain time for the RSRT. The tribunal is the subject of a Federal Government review due to be completed early next year.

The review is designed to determine if the RSRT is an effective means of addressing safety in the trucking industry.

Established in 2012, the RSRT was given the job improving the safety standards of truck drivers.

It has the power to issue binding orders on individual parties or the supply chain covering remuneration and remuneration-related conditions if it believes doing so will improve safety.

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