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World first: Fixed pay rates for owner-drivers starting 2016

Tribunal mandates minimum rates for contractor drivers involved in linehaul and supermarket work.


Mandatory minimum pay rates for many of Australia’s owner-drivers will begin early next year, including payment for time spent waiting in queues to load and unload freight.

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) today announced compulsory hourly and kilometre payments from April 4, 2016 for contractor drivers involved in supermarket work and linehaul operations.

The RSRT’s road safety remuneration order (RSRO) on contractor payments is legally binding on all parties involved in the supermarket and linehaul supply chains, including the likes of retailers such as Coles and Woolworths.

The move is designed to provide contractors with a safe and sustainable rate to prevent them from cutting corners – such as foregoing maintenance and working longer – to make ends meet.

However, the RSRT says the ruling will not apply to contractors engaged in operations currently being investigated by the tribunal, namely those involved in the cash-in-transit, waste management, port and wharf, and oil, fuel and gas sectors.

The order is due to run until at least April 3, 2020 and includes annual rate increases of 2 per cent. 

“The 2016 RSRO is a significant new development for the road transport industry in Australia, including for the contractor drivers falling within its scope, and we anticipate that the 2016 RSRO will be reviewed and amended over time based upon experience and new evidence,” the RSRT says in a statement.

Under the ruling, contractor drivers are guaranteed payment within 30 days for time spent waiting, loading or unloading and time spent supervising another person who is driving a vehicle or waiting in a queue.

Drivers must also be paid for the time they spend taking legally required breaks of 30 minutes or less and the time spent cleaning, inspecting, servicing or repairing a vehicle or trailer a hirer supplies.

Furthermore, payment must be made time spent inspecting or attending to a load, refuelling a truck, recording information or completing a document, and waiting in a location because of a natural disaster.

However, contractors will not be paid for time spent repairing a truck or trailer they supply for a job.

Payments will vary according to the truck and trailer models that contractors supply.

The RSRT says an online calculator similar to a draft version developed earlier this year will be made available to help the trucking industry and supply chain operators determine the rates payable to contractors.

“Following considerable support and feedback from parties, the RSRT intends to publish a revised online payments calculator consistent with the 2016 RSRO in early 2016,” the tribunal says.

Today’s ruling caps almost three years of work for the tribunal and more than a decade of lobbying efforts from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) for contractors to receive minimum payments.

“Today’s ruling is a world first. We now have a binding, legally enforceable decision which makes those at the top of the supply chain accountable for the practices throughout,” TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says.

“This is a huge victory in our fight to stop the carnage on our roads. It is an important step towards addressing the pressures on drivers that result in an unacceptable number of deaths and injuries.”

Sheldon has welcomed the RSRT’s decision to hold all parties in the supply chain accountable for ensuring contractors receive minimum rates.

Under the ruling, companies engaging transport operators will need to ensure they pay them enough so contractor drivers receive the rate they are entitled to.

The RSRT says the measure includes annual audits of supply chain contracts to ensure compliance.

“Wealthy retailers from now on will have to examine their transport contracts and question whether they comply with this ruling,” Sheldon says.

Owner-driver Frank Black says the RSRT’s decision “is a big step” in ensuring contractors can remain financially viable.

“Drivers need to know they can feed their family and pay bills. They need to know they don’t have to cut corners on safety.”




Photography: Brad Gardner

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