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Industry welcomes RSRT report, TWU unhappy

Both ATA and NatRoad say a mandatory code of conduct can fix payment time issues


The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO’s) inquiry report on the effects of the now-terminated Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) has been met with mixed reactions.

Industry groups, such as the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and NatRoad, see merit in the findings, while the Transport Workers Union (TWU) criticises it for “misrepresenting” industry issues.

Among its list of recommendations to government, the Ombudsman suggests developing an industry code of conduct for the road freight industry under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 – a recommendation the ATA and NatRoad back.

“In its report, the ombudsman recognised that payment terms and timeframes are a prominent issue for small trucking operators,” ATA CEO Christopher Melham says.

“The report recommended that the Commonwealth Treasury and the ACCC should work with industry to investigate developing a code of practice under the Competition and Consumer Act.

“The ATA strongly supports this recommendation, which echoes our call during the election campaign for a mandatory code.

“A mandatory code under the Act would address the payment terms issues facing small trucking businesses.

“The code would need to cover payment times, a prohibition on set offs and pay-when-paid arrangements, and alternative dispute resolution.

“The ACCC would be a highly credible regulator for the code.

“The ACCC already regulates five mandatory codes and one prescribed voluntary code in other industries.

“It has all the powers it needs to enforce mandatory codes and audit compliance.”

NatRoad chief executive Warren Clarke supports ASBFEO’s recommendation to set up training programs to attract young blood in an ageing workforce.

“We have an ageing workforce behind the wheel and we fully support the call for a clearer pathway for young entrants to this vital industry.”

Clarke also says the change to the NSW General Carriers Contract Determination (GCCD) is a similar “confusing” move by the union to drive small operators out of business.

“It looks like union-backed industrial changes are designed to push out mum and dad family run trucking businesses so that they can gain control of the industry,” Clarke says.

“The latest industrial changes in NSW were quietly introduced while the industry and operators were all focused on tackling the national pay orders earlier this year.”

Meanwhile, the TWU slams the report and accuses the Ombudsman of setting up an inquiry that “politicised” the issue of the safe rates system.

The union says the inquiry report supports NatRoad’s attempts to lower driver payments through its opposition to standard minimum rates for owner drivers and its demands for lower wages and allowances for employee drivers.

“This is a despicable report which tries to link the horrendous problems in our industry such as suicide to an Order setting safe rates which was in place for just two weeks,” TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says.

“The newsflash for Kate Carnell is that these suicides, bankruptcies and hardships have been going on for years and a safe rates system will tackle them by forcing wealthy clients to stop paying unsustainable rates and setting unrealistic deadlines.

“It comes as no surprise that her report criticises a system which was holding the major donors of her mates in the Liberal Party to account.”

Reiterating its claim that the approach of the RSRT regime was flawed, ATA suggests four “practical measures” to improve road safety:

  • reforming the road transport laws, with important amendments introduced into the Queensland Parliament this week
  • mandating truck and trailer stability control        
  • a review of truck driver licensing and training and
  • a national information campaign for car drivers about how to share the road safely with trucks.
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