Frustrated NatRoad takes swipe at safe rates order failings

RSRT’s Acton in firing line over lack of information on order’s effects

Frustrated NatRoad takes swipe at safe rates order failings
Jennifer Acton was a lightning rod for industry frustration on minimum rates.


The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has vented its frustration over the lack of clarity on how to avoid non-compliance risks emanating from Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT’s) minimum rates order.

The spray comes after an industry breakfast organised by the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) with RSRT president Jennifer Acton as the keynote speaker.

According to NatRoad, the 60 attendees had hoped for insights into the effects of the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016.

They were seeking answers to such questions as ‘Which operators are affected by this Order?’, ‘How is the effectiveness of the Order in improving road safety being measured?’ and ‘Has a Regulatory Impact Statement been completed for this Order?’.

Acton replied that it would be inappropriate for her to comment in case she has to preside over such issues in future proceedings of the Tribunal, with submissions from all sides.

Also, it wasn’t appropriate for her to elaborate on the reasoning of the full bench of the Tribunal in its December decision.

"Now I don’t mean to be unhelpful but they’re the constraints that I face," Acton said.

While she offered a contact number to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO’s) office, which is responsible for informing the industry on the order.

But NatRoad says the FWO has so far been unprepared for the task and callers have been shuttled between the two organisations.  

No one from the FWO attended the event.

"This nonsense is of no value to Operators attempting to understand and comply with this very complex Order which, appears to threaten the ongoing viability of thousands of Owner Operator transport businesses," NatRoad says.

"Whilst the Order is claimed to set minimum rates of payment for ‘Contractor Drivers’ it does so by mandating a very complex payment structure, not related to current industry payment practices, for those businesses deemed to be ‘Contractor Drivers’. ‘Contractor Drivers’ are primarily family operated transport businesses where the vehicle owner/s and their immediate family drive the vehicles.

"There is considerable confusion as to the break point between ‘Contractor Drivers’ and other operators.

"The Minimum Rates Order payment structure is not mandated for any transport operator who is not deemed to be a ‘Contractor Driver’ and in effect sets up a two-tier payment structure with ‘Contractor Driver’ minimum rates that may be up to 30 per cent higher than other operators in some instances.

"For those hiring transport operators, they must determine whether their intended carrier is a ‘Contractor Driver’, and if so whether they wish to pay that operator the complex Minimum Rate, or choose a 'Non-Contractor Driver’ and negotiate a fair rate with that operator as they have always done.

"With few exceptions, most Hirers surveyed by NatRoad have indicated that it is their intention to review whether or not they can continue to engage Contract Drivers, with the possible intention of only engaging Non-Contractor Drivers.

"Accordingly there is a high risk that many Contractor Drivers may have limited work or at worst, no work at all as of the 4th of April 2016".

NatRoad reiterates its belief that the Order will not fulfil its intended purpose and will in fact destroy the very businesses it is claimed to protect.

"The National Road Transport Association demands that the Turnbull government immediately withdraw this ill-conceived Order prior to its effective date and thereby prevent massive disruption to thousands of family businesses, and the Road Transport Industry as a whole," it says.

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