Subbies won't suffer from fuel surcharge axing

TWU says owner-drivers will not suffer from axing of fuel surcharge because there are ways to cover rising diesel prices

By Brad Gardner | October 6, 2010

Owner-drivers will not suffer once a fuel surcharge in NSW is axed next year, according to the NSW branch of the Transport Workers Union.

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission last month decided to end a surcharge that was added to the Transport Industry – General Carriers Contract Determination in 1990 to deal with sharp increase in fuel prices from the first Gulf War.

The charge, which required carriers to pay drivers a set rate depending on the vehicle being used, was never phased out when a new provision was introduced in 2008 to deal with high fuel prices.

TWU NSW Secretary Wayne Forno says the 2008 amendment is better for owner-drivers because the fuel rate is adjusted every six months unlike the measure introduced in 1990.

Furthermore, Forno says the union can immediately apply to the Commission for changes to the rate if there is a sudden jump in prices.

"The good thing about the 2008 decision is the fact in the event of a fuel spike we can readily get effective relief for owner-drivers. We don’t have to wait for that six-month period. We can apply to the commission straight away," he says.

The charge will end on January 1, 2011 after the Commission granted an application from the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) to scrap it.

Hugh McMaster from the NSW branch of the ARTIO says the existence of two charges led to a form of double counting.

The 1990 charge varies in price from 2.25 cents per kilometre for a rigid vehicle under two tonnes to 6.71 cents for a single drive prime mover.

Contractors were required to pay an extra 7.29 cents to drivers of bogie drive prime movers.

Unlike the fixed 1990 surcharge, the measure introduced in 2008 is based on the Australian Institute of Petroleum’s weekly average prices.

McMaster says the market-based measure is fair and reasonable to contractors and sub-contractors because it reflects the market price of diesel.

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