Despite a recent review of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) commissioned by Federal Senator Eric Abetz, no steps have been taken to disband the Tribunal or reduce its powers. Indeed, it now appears that the RSRT is poised to make further orders that may have a significant effect on road transport operators.

Road transport operators would be familiar with the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) and its first Order that came into force on 1 May 2014. A summary of that Order and what it means for those involved in long distance transport operations and the transportation of goods to supermarkets is available here: Road Transport and Distribution and Long Distance Operations Road Safety Remuneration Order 2014.

Operators caught by the Order need to ensure that they have in place:

  1. written contracts with employed drivers and subcontractors that meet minimum requirements specified in the Order; and
  2. a drug and alcohol policy requiring random testing that meets a list of requirements set out in the Order.

After undertaking hearings across Australia, the RSRT will shortly publish a report on minimum remuneration for subcontractors and owner drivers. The first RSRT Order imposed contractual requirements on employers and principal contractors. The report, due to be released on 27 October 2014, will form the basis of a proposed new Order that will prescribe minimum national rates of payment for certain owner drivers and other subcontractors. Various models for minimum payments have been proposed by industry players including:

  1. hourly rates based on the GVM of the vehicle supplied;
  2. a cost model that takes into account variables such as the region, type of freight and likely hours to be worked; and
  3. published ‘guideline’ rates for certain vehicle with the parties to agree on rates, with a dispute resolution mechanism available if agreement is not reached.

Replacing the current unregulated system with an Order that prescribes minimum rates of pay for subcontractors will have a profound effect on the Australian transport industry.