Transport regulator says this offence accounts for half of all breaches

Following a recent compliance audit, Wage Inspectorate Victoria found the same breach in half of all recorded offences relating to hirers engaging an owner driver or forestry contractor.

The Victorian regulator audited 248 engagements in 2022-23 to check compliance with the state’s Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005.

Specifically, these audits checked whether businesses engaging owner drivers or forestry contractors for a total of 30 days or more, or 30 days within a three-month period, were providing them with:

  • the prescribed information booklet
  • the prescribed cost and rates schedulefor their type of vehicle or equipment
  • a written contract that includes minimum hours of work or income level, rates to be paid, and minimum notice to end the contract or payment in lieu.

The audits also checked whether this information was provided to prospective contractors at least three business days before they were engaged.

According to the regulator, these requirements aim to improve the position of owner drivers and forestry contractors who run small businesses transporting goods or harvesting or transporting forestry products.

The Wage Inspectorate says half of all identified offences were hirers failing to provide the prescribed rates and costs schedule to an owner driver or forestry contractor three days prior to engagement.

This was, at least in part, driven by a misconception about that aspect of the law. Some hirers mistakenly believed they only needed to provide the rates they would be paying for a particular job, when they also need to give contractors the relevant Transport Industry Council rates and cost schedule.

“Make sure you’re giving contractors the prescribed information, so they can accurately assess the proposed job and whether they’ll come out ahead. It’s a simple step that will foster a healthy industry and, of course, it is a legal requirement,” said Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria Robert Hortle.

The Wage Inspectorate says the rates and costs schedules set out the typical costs of running an owner driver or forestry contractor business based on the type of vehicle or equipment being used. They help contractors understand the typical operating costs of doing business and assess whether an offer of work will cover their operating costs and provide a return.

The maximum penalty for not providing the prescribed information booklet and rates and costs schedule is $4808 for body corporates and $962 for individuals.

The Wage Inspectorate conducted workplace inspections across the state in in 2022-23 – from Mildura to Portland and Paynesville, and many places in between. It will continue conducting inspections over the next 12 months.

Hortle added, “The Wage Inspectorate will continue to travel the length and breadth of the state, inspecting Victorian workplaces and taking enforcement action where appropriate.”

The regulators advises that hirers and freight brokers should keep records that show they are meeting their obligations, because they may have to provide them to an authorised officer if they are chosen for an audit.

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