Industry baulks at written contracts proposal

Trucking groups and Toll believe requirement for all truck drivers to receive written contracts will be onerous and unworkable

Industry baulks at written contracts proposal
Industry baulks at written contracts proposal
By Brad Gardner | August 7, 2013

An influential chunk of the trucking fraternity is trying to kill a proposal to require written contracts for all drivers, warning it will be unworkable and an administrative burden.

Toll, the New South Wales branch of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA NSW) and the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Western Australia (LRTA) all oppose the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT) plan to formalise all contracts.

The RSRT’s draft remuneration order, released last month, says employee drivers and contractors must receive a written contract detailing the service being provided, the period the contract will run for, the driver’s remuneration, the number of work hours involved and a mechanism to review rates.

In a written response lodged with the tribunal, Toll argues the provision will require it to enter into contracts with all of its drivers, including casuals and contractors used on an ad hoc basis.

"This would impose an onerous and additional compliance burden on Toll. Toll submits that the clause should specifically exclude casual employees and ad hoc or itinerant contractor drivers," the company says.

The ATA NSW, which submitted its response after gauging the thoughts of its members, claims requiring written contracts in all cases "is completely unachievable and setting our industry up for failure".

"There are many instances where a one-off job will occur, where there is no contract, just a consignment note," the lobby group says.

An unnamed member of the association, whose opinions were included in the ATA NSW submission, believes the RSRT’s proposal will increase business costs and prompt customers to stop dealing with their firm.

"A client may just want one load of material that takes us no more than an hour to complete or a major contractor that engages us to move tow loads of material for them. It is impracticable to have a contract in these cases," the member states.

LRTA President Stephen Marley says it is common for companies to use sub-contractors at short notice to help with excess work. He questions how operators will be able to continue doing so if written contracts are mandated.

"The requirement to complete a written contract, specify a time limit, prepare a safe driving plan and consult other participants in the supply chain would make this method of operating impractical," Marley says.

"The alternative is to cease using contractors and employ drivers. This would enable an ongoing contract of employment but would result in increased use of casual employees therefore less stability in the industry and less monetary reward overall."

The opposition to the RSRT’s plan from Toll, the LRTA and the ATA NSW is in contrast to the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which wants the tribunal to go further.

Along with supporting written contracts for employees and contractors, the TWU wants a provision slotted into the draft order stating contracts must not provide any incentive for drivers to speed, overload or work excessive hours to complete a job.

Furthermore, the union wants the supply chain to be liable for taking reasonable steps to ensure truck drivers are paid in accordance with the RSRT’s orders and any other award or agreement.

The tribunal has finished receiving feedback on its draft order and will hold hearings on August 12 to 16 on the submissions received.

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