Trucking industry unites in push for fairer contracts


The Australian Trucking Association’s plan for fair trucking industry contracts would fix long payment times, ATA chair David Smith said this week.

Smith said the ATA plan would enable the Fair Work Commission to set road transport contract standards, including on payment times. The commission would be required to focus on recoverable costs rather than freight rates.

“Under our plan, owner-drivers would be able to charge what they wanted, but would have the protection of minimum terms and conditions and set payment times,” Smith said.

“The commission’s orders would apply to all trucking businesses and their customers. There would not be different standards applying to owner drivers and larger businesses, which is what occurred under the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and is still under discussion now.

Smith, a former truckie himself and now managing director of D&S Smith Haulage in SA, said it’s not enough to set payment times for owner-drivers and not the larger companies who deal directly with end customers.

“This approach would result in a cash flow crunch for larger companies, who would have to pay their contracted owner drivers in, say, 30 days but would not be paid themselves for much longer,” he said.

“Every party in the road transport supply chain should be paid in the same fair time period.”

The ATA call comes in the same week that trucks from all over Australia converged in main centres and on Parliament House in Canberra to press home a similar message.

The Transport Workers’ Union said the convoys follow a commitment from the federal government to empower the Fair Work Commission to set enforceable standards in transport to make the industry safer, fairer and more sustainable.

“This industry convoy is about showing federal parliament that transport is beyond breaking point and the solution is soon to be on the table before them,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

“Transport operators like Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics, Rivet Mining Services, Milkrun and 325 others have collapsed over the last year under the strain of uncommercial contracts, untrammeled supply chain pressures and unfair competition from gig models like AmazonFlex.

“People are being slaughtered on our roads under the deadly commercial pressures that lead to unrealistic deadlines, delayed vehicle maintenance, and staying on the road too long.”

Gordan Mackinlay, a board member of the National Road Freighters Association, said he chose to join the convoy because he wanted the industry to be “viable” and to make full-time driving attractive again.

“In 2016, I was one of the owner-drivers leading a convoy to Canberra to get the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal abolished,” Mackinlay said.

“Since then, our industry has been overlooked and things have got worse. I have experienced first-hand what the lack of standards in transport can do to an owner-operator. In 2019, I sold my trucks and went back to being a mechanic. Today, I’m joining a convoy calling for reform.

“There are dozens of others like me. That’s why we need reform, and we need it now.”

National Road Transport Association CEO Warren Clark siad the industry is at a critical point.

“We need wide-ranging and sensible change that bolsters our viability, builds productivity and enhances safety for everyone,” Clarke said.

“As a point of principle, we support measures to ensure the safe performance of work, as long as they are evidence-based and able to be practically implemented in the workplace.”

ARTIO secretary Peter Anderson said the industry has come together like never before because it shares the same frustrations, and fears for the future of transport.

“We know this reform committed by the federal government would unlock the industry’s potential,” he added.

“Employers and workers alike know that transport supply chains have lost accountability, productivity and are becoming progressively more dangerous.

“Operators are closing their doors, and workers are leaving the industry, or worse dying on the road. The gig economy’s entrance and rapid expansion only spells further doom for our essential industry. We urgently need transport reform passed into law to give all industry participants a fighting chance.”

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