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Vic Govt passes Act amendments to help owner-drivers

Amendments to the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act has passed in Victorian Parliament to help ensure transport operators are safer at work and paid correctly.

According to the Government, Victorians who own and drive their own vehicles to earn a living including drivers that work for delivery services such as UberEats and Deliveroo will be, following reforms, provided all the terms and conditions they need to run successful businesses.

Hirers and brokers face significant penalties if they breach their obligations to provide safe and fair conditions after changes were ratified to the Act this week.

Owner-operators that supply and operate one to three vehicles are expected to benefit most from the changes which will cover, in addition to light duty trucks and vans, motor bikes and bicycles to deliver goods, providing they are contractors, not legal employees.

Those that provide passenger freight services are not covered by the Act.

Through the Transport Industry Council of Victoria the amendments to the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act has honed in on promoting industry best practice, education and training. 

According to the Victorian Transport Association, there is now more clarity on the definition of a freight broker to ensure that contractors employed through third party technology based platforms are covered. 

VTA CEO Peter Anderson said the Association welcomed passage of the legislation.

“We strongly supported this legislation when it was proposed in May and are pleased with its passage through the Parliament yesterday,” he said.

“It will improve conditions for all owner-drivers and ensure that safety is paramount in all contracts," said Anderson.

“We commend Minister Pallas and the Government for working with the industry to legislate for better conditions for transport operators and those they employ.”

A recent review found many hirers and brokers were breaching the Act by not providing information about rates and costs to owner-drivers or forestry contractors.

Previously, owner-drivers were left with little standing in which to pursue legal action should they want to contest an issue as often their contractual arrangements were not properly recorded.

It also led to unreasonably high safety, income and business risks for owner operators in these industries according to the Victorian Government.

Under the reforms, hirers and brokers now face penalties if they don’t comply with the Act. If they fail in their obligations, they face fines of more than $16,500 as a body corporate or nearly $10,000 as an individual.

Amendments have also been made to the dispute resolution procedure under the Act to allow the Victorian Small Business Commission to arrange arbitration if disagreements arise.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria will be responsible for monitoring compliance with the Act, increasing awareness about parties’ rights and responsibilities and issuing penalties for non-compliance.

Established last year, Wage Inspectorate Victoria was established to better protect workers under a range of Victorian industrial relations laws.

It will conduct a comprehensive information campaign before the laws come into force, to ensure that those affected are aware of their rights and obligations and know where they can find help.

Dispute resolutions will be heard through the Small Business Commissioner and the new Victorian Wages Inspectorate will provide enforcement.

“Regulation in the industry simply wasn’t working – we’ve strengthened the Act so that those who do the wrong thing face serious penalties,” Tim Pallas Victorian Minister for Industrial Relations said in a statement.

“This is about ensuring hard-working owner drivers in the transport and forestry sector get the fair and safe working conditions they deserve.”

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