Rocky’s Smith objects to RSRO impact on small subbies

By: Rob McKay

Flawed approach to safety makes it impossible to contract owner-drivers seeking single loads or short-term work

Rocky’s Smith objects to RSRO impact on small subbies
Bryan Smith says the two RSROs are destroying the ability of many owner-drivers to function.


His business will not bear the brunt of the ‘safe rates’ RSRO but Rocky’s Own Transport CEO Bryan Smith believes its handling has been close to inhuman for owner-drivers servicing an open market.

Rocky’s Own operates predominantly with company equipment and company drivers and the order will have little impact on the business, Smith explains.

For the few permanent contactors it works with, the company had in place all the conditions of both relevant RSROs before the RSRT’s creation.

Smith attended the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT’s) Brisbane hearing and says he was surprised that the tribunal officers were seated in a separate room next door with the proceedings conducted by video link for security reasons after it was alleged a threat was made.

With their livelihoods on the line and many attendees, including him, there on an understanding given from RSRT president Jennifer Action’s own office the day before that they would be free to make verbal submissions on the day, he feels they should have been accorded more respect.

"You cannot but admire the toughness and the endeavour of the owner-operator truck drivers who are out there, not sitting back bludging on the system and then looking for society to look after them, they have a go they are independent strong individuals   Smith says.

"And you’re looking at these guys in this room yesterday and the looks on their faces.

"You’ve got a government authority basically taking their livelihoods away from them."

Smith says the writing was on the wall with the Clause 11.1 of the Road Transport and Distribution and Long Distance Operations Road Safety Remuneration Order 2014, which fails to account for back-freight issues in the transport market and rubs out of consideration the ad hoc subcontractor, who is perhaps seeking a single load once or twice a year over the mango season.

That clause reads: "An employer or hirer must take all reasonable measures to ensure a road transport driver employed or engaged by them is trained in work health and safety systems and procedures relevant to the road transport service to be provided by the road transport driver."

Rocky’s Own’s training package lasts a week.

Of the ad hoc subcontractor, Smith says the clause means "I can’t load him anymore because I can’t train him for a week for one load to Brisbane.

"But I can load another company.

"So what do you do?

"It’s not feasible for him to sit there to do a week’s training to meet my occupational health and safety requirements", and the risk for the company of taking such subcontractor on is prohibitive.

On a different level, Smith has a strong philosophical objection to this intrusion into business.

"It is not the function of governments to create legislative controls to the point where it stops people trying to achieve," he says.

"If this legislation was in place 60 years ago Lindsay Fox could never have created Linfox, one of the most successfully transport companies in this country, he wouldn’t have got a start.

"And that’s what they are doing here.

"They are denying some owner-operators an opportunity and a right to function."

Smith sees a solution being if it relates to the subcontractor who works predominantly with the one hirer, as this would make the relationship mutually meaningful and beneficial.

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