RSRT repeal: Industry bodies share joy


ATA, NatRoad, and the Ai Group celebrate campaign to remove the RSRT and RSRO

RSRT repeal: Industry bodies share joy
ATA CEO Chris Melham says they “secured a great victory”.

 

Australian Trucking Association CEO Christopher Melham says owner-drivers and small trucking businesses "secured a great victory" last night when the federal parliament voted in favour of removing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) and its Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 (RSRO).

The industry body, which organised a convoy to Canberra on Monday morning attended by 200 truck drivers, says the RSRT had unfairly targeted one part of the industry.

"The RSRT’s payments order applied a minimum freight rate to owner drivers," Melham says.

"As a result, owner drivers were finding themselves unable to compete with the rates offered by other competitors in the marketplace."

He says the pressure of the Order, which did not apply to employee drivers, meant owner-drivers "were losing their livelihoods and family businesses were folding under the pressure of this unfair, two-tier payment system."

Thanking the coalition and the independents who supported the Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill 2016, Melham says "the RSRT is now a thing of the past, and its funding will be reassigned to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator."

"I’d like to thank the Government and all those independent senators who stood with owner drivers during this dark time," he says.

"Owner operators across Australia stood up and said that this wasn’t right.

"In all states and territories, drivers invested their own time and money to attend rallies, be part of convoys, and approach their local members to fix this appalling situation."

The ATA says the Bill received Royal Assent this morning and the abolition act takes effect on Thursday.

Shared victory

In a small statement, the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) says it "welcomes the passing of a Bill last night in Federal Parliament to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which will keep up to 40,000 small, family owned trucker businesses on the road."

The body's CEO Warren Clark says the result follows an exhaustive campaign.

"We thank the Coalition who listened to the concerns of our industry and introduced the Bill, and Senators Lazarus, Lambie, Madigan and the other crossbenchers whose support saw the Bill pass through the Parliament," Clark says.

"The shambles that was the RSRT is now behind us and those businesses at risk of going under as a result of its ill-informed decisions, can now return to business as usual."

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) CEO Innes Willox has chorused the sentiment, saying the news "is very welcome."

"Ai Group opposed the establishment of the Tribunal, and ever since we have called for its abolition," Willox says.

"The Tribunal should never have been established in the first place.

"It was set up in response to a TWU industrial campaign.

"The idea that paying drivers more or differently will improve road safety has been rightly rejected by Parliament."

The Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association (LBCA) and the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTAWA) have also come out strongly in favour of the RSRT’s abolishment.

"The dragon of the RSRT is dead," the LBCA says. "We’ve seen off a dangerous livelihood threatening, family threatening menace."

The industry body says it "is a moment for us all to say congratulations to each other because it took many of us working in the same direction, taking individual initiatives, pushing hard and not losing our nerve that made it happen."

Support from deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and former senator Tony Windsor, and the participation of its members in the convoy to Canberra over the weekend all played parts in swaying the parliament, the LBCA says.

"Special thanks to all our members who appeared as witnesses and were abused by the Tribunal," the body says.

"We did our best to protect you, but your courage and their abuse was a major reason why the Parliament voted so decisively to abolish the Tribunal."

The Western Australian-focused LRTAWA shared similar sentiment, stating it was a win for small businesses.

Speaking on behalf of the organisation, president Stephen Marley says "rural transporters were one of the groups that would have been the worst affected by the RSRT’s recent order as so much of their work involved back-loading and loads with more than one consignor on board."

As to the complexity of the RSRO and the confusion that ensued, Marley says he "cannot recall a transport issue in the last couple of decades that has united the industry through fear of the future the way the RSRT has."

"Small transport companies in regional areas were facing financial ruin which inevitably would have affected many other regional businesses servicing the transporters."

Seeing the positives in the ordeal, the LRTAWA president says the industry "worked together through its representative associations and it is a good example of the power of effective lobby groups."

"The result is testimony to what industry associations can achieve."

Thanking the ministers "for listening to transporters concerns and working with the industry to develop a legislative strategy that had the best prospect of success," Marley says the body "will continue to push for more safety bays, better roads and a well-informed driving community to ensure we all get home safely."

NHVR solution

While the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has also joined in on the celebrations, highlighting its position from when the tribunal was proposed in 2010, it has also come to the fore to push the NHVR solution.

"The Senate vote vindicates ALC’s long held position that the Tribunal and its Orders would inevitably lead to regulatory overlap, confusion, inefficiencies and costs," ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff says.

The ALC chief says the answer to the problem is in the Chain of Responsibility laws.

"The ALC view has always been that the most effective way to drive safety in the heavy vehicle industry is through achieving greater compliance and enforcement of Chain of Responsibility in the Heavy Vehicle National Law," he says.

"There are a number of proposed changes to Chain of Responsibility (COR) laws in 2016.

"This includes the introduction of a ‘primary duty of care’ into the current Chain of Responsibility that will be similar in nature to those contained in workplace health and safety legislation."

The industry body’s vision features the mandatory use of technology, recording fatigue, speeding, location, and dangerous driving data; the addition of operator accreditation, ensuring participants are qualified for certain tasks; a focus on COR; and a better alignment with work health safety laws.

"ALC calls on those organisations that have invested time and resources in the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to put their weight behind the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to develop and implement safety measures that are workable, effective and which drive heavy vehicle safety outcomes across Australia," Kilgariff says.  

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell has also backed the proposal to empower the NHVR.

"The NHVR is best placed to develop practical measures to help ensure the truck drivers who go out to work on our roads every day, get home safely to their families," Carnell says.

Labelling the news overnight as prevailing common sense, Carnell says owner-drivers "can now confidently get back on the road and on with the job of keeping their small businesses running, within a fair and competitive market."

However, she hopes the banks will "bear these circumstances in mind" in the time it takes "for the industry to get back to normal" after the RSRT.

"I encourage banks and other financial institutions to show some leniency towards owner-driver small businesspeople; many have mortgaged the family home to cover the costs of running their enterprise and may be struggling financially due to the recent upheaval," Carnell says.

 

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