NatRoad says no to safe rates

NatRoad may support mandatory paid waiting time but claims there is no "definitive proof" to justify safe rates tribunal

By Brad Gardner | February 10, 2012

NatRoad has joined a list of industry groups lobbying the Federal Government to turn its back on safe rates, but says it may support paid waiting time.

The representative group today added its voice to the debate on the Road Safety Remuneration Bill, which will introduce a rate-setting tribunal for truck drivers from July 1.

Siding with the Australian Industry Group, the NSW Australian Trucking Association and the Australian Logistics Council, NatRoad wants the Federal Government to withdraw the Bill.

"NatRoad cannot support the Bill given the regulatory impact statement acknowledges that there is no definitive proof that a ‘safe pay rate’ can be set and linked to road safety," NatRoad CEO Christopher Melham says.

The RIS, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, also notes 29 percent of owner-drivers earn less than the minimum wage.

"Despite the fact that studies and academic literature have not conclusively proven the extent to which rates and safe transport outcomes are related, there are a number of market failures or factors that would suggest that it is not unreasonable to expect that the manner in which owner drivers are remunerated will impact on safety," PricewaterhouseCoopers says.

Melham says it is important to note car drivers are at fault in the majority of fatal accidents involving a truck and another vehicle. He believes there needs to be greater focus on motorists sharing the road with heavy vehicles.

NatRoad says it surveyed transport operators across Australia and found that 74 percent disagree that increasing pay will improve safety.

It claims 81 percent support the Federal Government concentrating on existing safety initiatives, such as chain of responsibility law, instead of opting for a tribunal.

The group goes on to say 84 percent of those surveyed considered the existing transport employment awards safe.

"Whilst NatRoad is opposed to the establishment of another unnecessary remuneration tribunal, it may consider supporting new regulation to mandate the payment of demurrage if the liability for driver waiting time is borne by the responsible supply chain entity causing the delay," Melham says.

He wants the government to focus on measures such as national work health and safety laws, a national road safety strategy and safety accreditation programmes.

"The government needs to focus its efforts on continuing to achieve results on the proven road safety strategies and programs that have already been agreed to by industry and government that involve all road users," Melham says.

In the RIS, PricewaterhouseCoopers says 29 percent of owner-drivers earn on average $29,465 a year before tax. An employee on the minimum wage takes home $32,260 annually.

Professor Michael Quinlan has long argued the case for changes to trucking pay rates. He co-authored the 2008 report the Federal Government relied upon to make the case for a tribunal.

In the report, Quinlan and Lance Wright QC criticise those in the trucking industry denying a link between pay and safety.

"Major stakeholders in the industry continue to deny there is a connection, while essentially proffering little if any research or credible evidence to discount or provide alternative explanations to research indicating that such a connection exists," the report says.

Government departments, coronial inquests, academics and commissions have, at various times, accepted the link between pay and safety exists.

Studies by former US truck driver and now Wayne State University Professor Michael Belzer have shown increases in pay have led to reductions in heavy vehicle accidents.

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