Get safe rates right or we're stuffed: Tothag

Tothag Transport director and president of the QTA says government must get safe rates right otherwise industry will suffer

By Brad Gardiner | February 10, 2011

The owner of a leading Queensland transport company says government and industry must get safe rates right otherwise trucking operators will suffer.

Tothag Transport Director Tim Squires has written to the Federal Government, saying the direction it takes on safe rates will affect the livelihood of workers, the viability of businesses and the cost of freight.

The Federal Government is planning on setting a minimum rate for sub-contractors and employee drivers to ensure they are paid enough to make ends meet.

"It needs to be stated that, as an industry consulting with Government on a very serious issue, we all need to get this right," Squires, who is also the president of the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA), says

"Get it wrong and we could end up with a layer of lame duck beaurecracy [sic] that does nothing more than add cost."

The Government is currently consulting industry on its proposal to reform pay methods, and has suggested establishing a panel within Fair Work Australia with the power to set rates.

Squires supports the proposal and says that owner-drivers should be entitled to a cost recovery component and fuel levy.

Similar to comments made by Annric Bulk Haulage, Squires wants safe rates to include payment terms.

"One of the major issues for owner-drivers and independent fleet operators is being paid in a timely manner. Many have to wait up to 90 days for payment," he says.

"Payment terms should be an absolute maximum of 30 days."

He says a tribunal must include a mix of judicial and industry appointments with the power to rule on and change any contract in the supply chain.

However, Squires raises potential problems with altering pay methods. He says transport customers might view the minimum rate as what they will need to pay, with the inference being those currently on higher rates might suffer.

Squires suggests larger firms might stop using sub-contractors if the cost of hiring them increases due to safe rates.

"Many owner-drivers, sub-contractors and small fleet operators may be the worst hit out of this safe rates campaign," he says.

Squires questions why the remuneration outlined in transport Awards are not sufficient considering they were drafted by Fair Work Australia.

He also urges governments to go beyond safe rates, saying motorists need to be educated because most crashes involving heavy vehicles are not the fault of the truck driver.

He wants a licensing system introduced that rates companies based on safety. Under Squires’ proposal, the system will also review a potential transport operator before they go into business to ensure they can successfully run the company.

In line with comments raised by industry groups previously, Squires calls for targeted enforcement to be introduced to recognise businesses with a good compliance record.

The Federal Government is proposing three different models to oversee safe rates, which includes allowing Fair Work Australia to set employment-like conditions for owner-drivers.

The Government also proposes establishing an independent authority or a panel system made up of Fair Work and industry representatives. Unlike the first proposal, both systems will not apply employment conditions to owner-drivers.

The move is in response to findings that show a link between low rates of pay and poor safety.

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