Ai Group advocates road safety tribunal’s demise

By: Brad Gardner

Employer group’s submission demands the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal be scrapped

Ai Group advocates road safety tribunal’s demise
Ai Group CEO Innes Willox.

One of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT) strongest critics has written to a review of the body urging its demise.

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), which opposed the creation of the tribunal in 2012, has joined the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) in recommending the RSRT be disbanded.

The Federal Government is currently reviewing the tribunal to determine if it is an effective means of improving safety in the trucking industry.

"The Road Safety Remuneration System does not have broad support. It is a flawed system which was implemented by the previous Federal Government in response to the Transport Workers Union’s safe rates, safe roadsindustrial campaign," Ai Group CEO Innes Willox says.

"The road safety remuneration system is distracting government and industry attention and resources away from the measures which are widely recognised as improving road safety, towards a regime which is not widely supported nor underpinned by robust economic modelling."

A 2008 National Transport Commission (NTC) report, which was the basis for the creation of the RSRT, found a link between low rates of pay and poor safety in the trucking industry.

The tribunal has the power to set remuneration and remuneration related conditions for employee drivers and owner-drivers throughout the transport supply chain.

However, the Ai Group’s submission suggests fiddling with pay rates may have the opposite effect.

"Even if a causal connection between remuneration and unsafe practices is presumed to exist it does not follow that establishing higher minimum rates or prohibiting certain methods of payment will result in drivers changing their unsafe practices," the submission states.

"Rather, if it is accepted that an individual’s on-road behaviour is influenced by the quantum of their remuneration it is conceivable that increased rates may further incentivise individuals to engage in behaviours such as the working of excessive hours in order to reap greater rewards.

"Similarly, other unsafe practices such as drivers who fail to undertake maintenance of their vehicles in order to make savings may simply continue regardless of their level of remuneration."

The submission also references comments from former federal TWU press secretary Seth Tenkate, who told the Australian Financial Review last year there was "barely a specific case study" to support a link between pay and safety.

The Ai Group claims there is a risk the tribunal will significantly increase transport costs without delivering any tangible improvement in safety.

"The road transport industry is already one of the most heavily regulated sectors of the economy. It is subject to specific laws addressing work health and safety but also subject to specific laws addressing safety in the road transport context," the submission states.

"Moreover there is a raft of measures that address the industrial or contractual entitlement of drivers, be they employees or contractors."

Employment Minister Eric Abetz appointed consultant Rex Deighton-Smith to lead the review, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year.

In its submission to the review, the ALC argued the tribunal amounted to significant legislative over-reach and duplicates existing workplace health and safety laws.

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