'Endangered' owner-drivers relying on tribunal for survival

Trucker bemoans the state of the industry in submission to Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, saying owner-drivers are an "endangered species"

By Brad gardner | October 12, 2012

A struggling owner-driver is pinning his hopes on the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, saying the new rate-setting body will determine if he carries on in the industry.

The veteran of 18 years, who only identifies himself as a taxi truck operator working for a large transporter in Melbourne, has written to the tribunal claiming existing freight rates are insufficient.

His submission, which draws on a letter he sent to Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese earlier this year, says the hourly rate he receives makes it "virtually impossible" to maintain his ageing truck to required standards.

"We Owner/Drivers are relying on a positive outcome from the RSRT to determine whether it’s viable/worthwhile remaining in this exploitative industry," he writes.

"I actively dissuade anyone enquiring about becoming an Owner/Driver as, in all conscience, I couldn’t recommend this industry to anyone."

The submission shows the owner-driver’s hourly rate grew gradually between 2002 and 2006, before declining between 2006 and 2010. It is currently $32.03 per hour, just over $1.50 more than he received six years ago.

"I hear all sorts of stories relating to questionable practices/business ethics towards O/Ds in this industry and I fear we are becoming an endangered species," he writes.

"It’s very frustrating to hear of storemen earning close to my hourly rate with none of the overheads I have to absorb (especially the repairs/maintenance/fuel inefficiency involved with keeping a 22 year old truck on the road)."

The tribunal was established on July 1 to set pay for employee drivers and owner-drivers. The Federal Government established the tribunal in response to a National Transport Commission (NTC) report linking low rates of pay to poor safety.

The tribunal is currently developing an annual work program that will detail the areas of the industry it will investigate to see if remuneration-related practices are causing unsafe practices.

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