Breaches of minimum rates for owner-drivers could lead to $54k fines

By: Brad Gardner

Massive fines can be handed to corporations for failing to comply.


Do you have a spare $54,000 lying around? 

If so, you may need it if you breach the soon-to-be-introduced minimum rates scheme for owner-drivers. 

That is the maximum penalty that can be levelled against corporations for each offence under the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order, which sets minimum hourly and kilometre payments for owner-drivers. 

The Federal Government made reference to the size of the penalties as a reason why the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal needed to delay the April 4 introduction of the order.

In a submission lodged with the tribunal it referred to a high level of confusion and a lack of knowledge about the order in the industry, indicating this could lead to individuals and corporations unintentionally breaching their obligations.

"…the Order should be implemented over a timeframe and in a way which minimises the risk of non-compliance, especially inadvertent non-compliance," the Government says in a written submission to the tribunal. 

"In support of this position, the Commonwealth notes that non-compliance with the Order once it comes into effect involves a breach of a civil remedy respect of which significant civil penalties can be imposed of up to $54,000 for each contravention for Corporations and the Commonwealth."

The Government supports the Australian Industry Group’s (Ai Group) call for a January 1, 2017 start date and a three-year transition to minimum rates. 

"The correspondence forwarded to the Tribunal evidences both a level of confusion and a high level of concern regarding the terms of the Order and its impact on the businesses of those authoring the correspondence," the Federal Government’s submission says. 

Do you have a spare $54,000 lying around?

Posted by Owner Driver on Tuesday, 22 March 2016

"The correspondence also evidences a lack of knowledge and misunderstandings of the terms of the Tribunal’s Decision and Order."

The submission claims small trucking businesses are unsure if minimum rates will affect them but cannot afford legal advice to find out. 

It adds that many people have contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) for advice. The agency is responsible for enforcing rates and educating the industry about its obligations. 

"The number of calls has escalated significantly in recent weeks," the submission says. 

"Many callers are small operators who expressed concerns that they would be priced out of their business, forced into bankruptcy and left with no work in the industry due to the increase in rates."

Although it made a submission in support of the Ai Group, the Federal Government has no power to prevent minimum rates from beginning

The RSRT is independent of government and the Federal Government is not eligible to make submissions to vary the tribunal’s decisions. 

The RSRT is due to decide by the end of this month if the minimum rates scheme will be delayed. 


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