Monday, 18 April 2016
Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) Bill 2016; Consideration in Detail
I support this Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) Bill 2016, which seeks to delay the commencement date for the payment order issued by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in respect of the contractor-driver minimum payments to 1 January 2017.
The Australian Industry Group and others have made application to the tribunal for a delay in the commencement date of the Road Safety Remuneration Payments Order 2016. In the past 48 hours, we have witnessed convoys of owner-drivers and their prime movers rallying together around Parliament House, calling upon the government to protect their livelihoods. The proposed changes have the potential to impact upon the viability of businesses in the road transport industry, the movement of freight across our nation and the national economy. Therefore, hirers, contractor-drivers and other participants in the supply chain should have sufficient time to make any necessary adjustments to their operations.
Across our vast country, the road transport industry is an integral part of the economy in terms of logistics, distribution and supply chains, linking products to markets and goods to customers. Nationally, the industry turns over $51 billion annually, providing work for approximately 200,000 drivers. The livelihoods of up to 35,000 owner-drivers are at stake, many of whom have taken out mortgages to finance their prime movers.
There is a substantial case in supporting a delay to give the industry adequate time to prepare for such significant structural reform, to understand the terms of the order and to modify business practices accordingly. It has become apparent that there is evidently a lack of understanding amongst owner-drivers of the payments order, because the drivers misinterpreted the relevant provisions when they were giving evidence about the industry at the tribunal hearing. The order establishes minimum payments for contractor-drivers involved in operations relating to a supermarket chain or long-distance operations, setting minimum rates of payment per hour and per kilometre for such contractor-drivers, depending on the class of vehicle being driven. Contractor-owner-drivers have maintained their position in evidence that if they have to apply the rates prescribed in the payment order they will not be hired, due to being priced out of the market.
If this debate is actually about improving road safety, then permit me to speak about the current improvements in the driver training, assessment and accreditation system implemented in recent years. As testament to the diversity of life experience and skills on this side of the House in the parliament, I am the holder of a current unrestricted multi-combination MC licence, which enables me to drive B-doubles and road trains. Having gone through the process, I can attest to the rigorous training program which has been introduced in more recent times to actively improve road safety in the heavy haulage industry.
When I completed my training in Maddington, Western Australia, it involved passing units of competency in fatigue management and vehicle safety inspections before and during each trip, as well as route planning to ensure that the prime mover and its trailers did not exceed the maximum allowed length, height or weight permitted on certain roads and bridges during the journey. Participants in the accredited course were required to complete workbooks as part of the theoretical component of the training, and were shown how to use logbooks to maintain proper records. Furthermore, during the practical assessment the vehicle combination was required to be loaded to just over 20 tonnes per trailer, which in my case was over 40 tonnes for the road test.
The more stringent vocational education and training regime has been implemented over the years in an effort by the road transport authorities to improve road safety standards in a practical way. Gone are the days when heavy-vehicle licences were issued at local police stations in rural areas following a brief driving test around town in an unladen vehicle. Today there is a graduated licensing system, which requires an applicant to gain two years' experience with a car licence before obtaining a heavy-rigid HR licence, and then a similar period of road experience before moving on to the heavy-articulated categories of heavy combination, HC, and multi-combination, MC. These training and development measures are practical, and it can be demonstrated that they have a logical effect on improving road safety. (Time expired)