Opinion

Look overseas for drivers? Why we have to fix problems at home first

Many trucking families have suffered through the good and bad of the heavy vehicle industry. As ‘Bored Neurotic Housewives’ we’ve travelled the high and low roads with our driver, trying hard to keep it all together.

Now we have the pundits telling the government and media we have a major driver shortage. If you take a line through the number of job ads, it’s glaringly obviously there are more jobs than drivers.

One hypocritical act is calling for changes to visa applications to include professional drivers. Why?

Why not fix the problems at home first? We have to. What problems? Easy: renumeration, regulations and the level of enforcement.

It’s not about a Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), it’s about a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work for the driver, the small businesses and owner-drivers. It’s about fair and equitable contracts.

Like our kids’ squabbles, everyone still squabbles both sides of the now defunct RSRT. Our opinion is that it was a great business plan for big business with little or no thought to people at the end of the supply chain – drivers, especially owner-drivers.

Big business, which have the monopoly with their bums on the seats of boards and advisory groups, have lost focus. Maybe they need a tutor like the kids when they lose focus at school.

Any rate increase to the customer is most certainly not filtered down to the owner-driver, small business or driver. Proof of that would be the fuel tax levy. We have been made aware that some bigger businesses are billing their customers but just aren’t passing it on in full, or part, to their subcontractors.

It really is telling of who the pundits think will win this game of monopoly.

B-triples, multiple cameras, accreditation, apprenticeships, traffic cameras, imported drivers, 90km/h speed limits and more regulations will improve productivity, but without any appropriate remuneration?

Appropriate rest areas, appropriate remuneration, appropriate HVNL, appropriate changes to the rules of this game.

The drivers are being asked to perform more tricks, be more productive, tow bigger trailers, be more robotic to maximise their allowable driving time, being forced to wait longer because the pick-up or delivery location isn’t ready for them – all for an extra couple of bucks a week?

Have you seen the new pay rates awarded by Fair Work? How the hell does a family survive? Why would you bust your arse daily for that level of remuneration?

When we look at the wages of a casual adult barista, they make around $27.15 per hour for normal Monday to Friday hours, $29.52 after 10pm or $30.70 between midnight anmd 6am; $54.30/hr on a public holiday.

There are many examples of wage hypocrisy and they’re not hard to find. This, in itself, shows the short-sightedness of people like Fair Work.

More examples:

Tipper drivers, paid by the load, they rush and/or are pushed daily to ensure a profit margin or at least pay themselves. The other side of the coin, hourly hire, they have to work as many hours as they can for the award rate just to meet costs and survive.

Our driver, with all those luxuries that come with living in a truck and away from their family so much, is lucky to get $35.72/hr IF they are paid by the hour.

If they are paid at a kilometre rate, that can go down to as little as a few dollars an hour as the wages normally fails to take into account all the delays, shift work, mandatory rest breaks, the incessant waiting for others when having to load/unload, potential fines for non-safety related offences, lack of adequate parking facilities for quality sleep/showers/toilets/decent feeds.

Let’s not forget holiday pay, and how many companies pay the basic 38-hour weekly base rate without the loading. No wonder drivers don’t take leave or simply buy their annual leave throughout the year.

At the end of the day, when this game of Heavy Vehicle Monopoly is declared, it will only be big business on the game board.

There will no longer be the calibre of drivers we have had in days gone by… and are fortunate enough to still have a small portion of.

Who’s the winner here?

Small business/owner-drivers/drivers?

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