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Industry hails Government response to RSRT Report

The Federal Government’s reaction to a report by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) into the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) has received widespread support by sectors of the transport industry, including the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC).

“Since it was first proposed in 2010, ALC has always opposed the introduction of the RSRT,” said Michael Kilgariff, ALC Managing Director. “The tribunal was intentioned to improve heavy vehicle safety and prevent fatalities on the road. In reality, it had the opposite effect, taking focus away from ‘chain of responsibility’ laws that place a legal obligation on supply-chain operators to take action to prevent speeding, fatigue, mass limits and loading infringements.

“For this reason, ALC shares the Government’s concern that the application by the Transport Workers Union to vary the NSW General Carriers Contract Determination will reintroduce the same inefficiencies in that State, with no tangible safety benefit.”

NatRoad CEO, Warren Clark, added. “In short, the Government response to ASBFEO’s report strongly warns that industrial upheaval in the sector is not over. There is a general consensus that what occurred with the RSRT should never be repeated.

“Commonwealth protections for small operators and contract carriers are in place through the Fair Work Act and the Independent Contractors Act – let’s strengthen these so we have a level operating field for small and big operators.”

Meanwhile, CEO of the ATA, Ben Maguire, said the association “particularly welcomes the Government’s in-principle support for recommendation 9, where the ombudsman proposed a national advertising campaign to educate road users about how to drive near and around trucks”.

“The Government should spend part of the $3.9 million it has allocated to the Infrastructure Department in 2017-18 from the abolition of the RSRT to this campaign. The campaign must include Western Australia and the Northern Territory,” he said.

Northern Territory Road Transport Association’s Executive Officer, Louise Bilato, also welcomed the response. “Mental health and wellbeing in the transport industry needs a higher focus, and this Australian Government Response signals recognition of the onerous responsibilities placed on small businesses and the importance of not trivialising road safety.”

In May last year, the Australian Government requested the ASBFEO to conduct an inquiry into the effect of the now dissolved RSRT’s Payments Order on Australian owner-drivers and small businesses. “The Ombudsman’s report confirms the Government’s concerns and that the decision to urgently abolish the Tribunal was necessary,” Minister for Employment, Senator Michaelia Cash, stated in a report recently released on the Department of Employment website.

The Government supported the Ombudsman’s report that outlined 14 recommendations, including:

  • Considering to the potential impact on people’s mental health.
  • Discouraging the setting of mandated rates of pay that only apply to owner drivers and small businesses.
  • Existing and future tribunals dealing with small businesses should employ less formal and legalistic processes, not be adversarial, facilitate self-represented parties and be free of bias, actual or perceived.
  • Governments to consider other bodies or frameworks with expertise in regulation and facilitative processes to achieve negotiated and appropriate outcomes.
  • The development of regulations by a government agency that impacts on small businesses.
  • The implementation of new regulation should afford small businesses sufficient time to understand, seek advice and be able to make any business changes to adapt to the regulation.
  • The Government to provide education and adequate support, and to consider providing compensation where appropriate.
  • The ASBFEO encouraging industry associations to work with the media to ensure that in reporting accidents involving trucks, fault is not impliedly attributed to truck drivers before the outcome of a police investigation.
  • The ACCC encouraging the Transport and Infrastructure Council and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to consider funding national advertisements to educate road users about how to drive near and around trucks, given that the vast majority of multi-vehicle accidents involving trucks are not the fault of the truck.
  • The Government to consider establishing an apprenticeship/traineeship scheme to get more young people into the trucking industry.
  • For the ASBFEO to reduce payment terms for owner drivers as part of its Inquiry into Payment Terms.
  • Developing a Code of Conduct for the road freight industry under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).
  • For the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to target information materials for owner drivers and small businesses about the unfair contracts.
  • For the ASBFEO to encourage transport associations to proactively engage with owner drivers and small businesses and to represent their views in government processes and build upon communication networks.

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