Do­ing the right thing

Rogue op­er­a­tors are not only giv­ing the in­dus­try a neg­a­tive im­age, they’re mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for rep­utable and safety-con­scious busi­nesses to com­pete on a level play­ing field, writes War­ren Clark

Owner Driver - - Owner / Driver - WAR­REN CLARK, NatRoad’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, has more than 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence lead­ing and devel­op­ing busi­ness for emerg­ing com­pa­nies. War­ren has held the po­si­tion of CEO at var­i­ous com­pa­nies and is a cer­ti­fied char­tered ac­coun­tant.

EM­PLOYEE driv­ers seek­ing more in­de­pen­dence, bet­ter in­come, greater job se­cu­rity, and new ca­reer chal­lenges of­ten make the tran­si­tion from truck driver to small trans­port busi­ness owner. As their new ven­ture be­gins to flour­ish, these en­trepreneurs of­ten find them­selves need­ing to put on their own driv­ers in or­der to grow their busi­ness.

For­mer em­ployee driv­ers who’ve taken the huge step of start­ing their own en­ter­prises are an in­te­gral part of NatRoad’s mem­ber­ship. They also bring unique and valu­able in­sights to our as­so­ci­a­tion.

As truck driv­ers them­selves, our ‘owner-driver’ mem­bers (or per­haps more ac­cu­rately, our small busi­ness mem­bers) are very fa­mil­iar with the plight of em­ployee truck driv­ers at the hands of un­scrupu­lous em­ploy­ers. It doesn’t make them happy and it doesn’t make us happy ei­ther.

When a new trans­port busi­ness has grown to the point where for­mer em­ployee driv­ers need to hire their own driv­ers or sub­bies, they’re usu­ally pretty keen to do the right thing by them. Why? Well, not only do they re­mem­ber how they were ripped off by shonky op­er­a­tors in the past, but they’re also smart enough to know that do­ing the right thing by their driv­ers is sim­ply good busi­ness prac­tice.

It helps make their busi­ness more com­pet­i­tive, safer, and more prof­itable. It also makes them a more at­trac­tive em­ployer – which is cru­cial in an in­dus­try that finds it hard to re­cruit and keep good driv­ers.

Do­ing the right thing by your driv­ers also acts as a form of in­sur­ance, be­cause it helps pre­vent nasty fi­nan­cial, le­gal, and com­pli­ance headaches into the fu­ture. Noth­ing like a $30K su­per bill, in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Fair Work Om­buds­man or the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice, or a stint in gaol to put a real damp­ener on your day!

NatRoad’s in­dus­trial re­la­tions spe­cial­ists are con­stantly ad­vis­ing our mem­bers about the cor­rect clas­si­fi­ca­tion and rates of pay for driv­ers, and about driv­ers’ em­ploy­ment rights and en­ti­tle­ments. Pay­ing driv­ers cor­rectly, en­sur­ing driv­ers have proper ac­cess to their law­ful en­ti­tle­ments, and en­sur­ing they are safe and not fa­tigued can pre­vent night­mare sit­u­a­tions that can de­stroy a trans­port busi­ness and put driv­ers out of work in one fell swoop. That’s not good for fam­i­lies, for our in­dus­try, or for the na­tion.

It’s not that hard.

AWARDS COV­ERED

In Aus­tralia, all new em­ploy­ees must be given a Fair Work In­for­ma­tion State­ment be­fore, or as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter, they start their new job. This state­ment pro­vides in­for­ma­tion on things like the Na­tional Em­ploy­ment Stan­dards, the right to re­quest flex­i­ble work­ing ar­range­ments, ter­mi­na­tion of em­ploy­ment, in­di­vid­ual flex­i­bil­ity ar­range­ments, the role of the Fair Work Om­buds­man and the Fair Work Com­mis­sion, and mod­ern awards.

Truck driv­ers are cov­ered by two main mod­ern awards: the Road Trans­port and Dis­tri­bu­tion Award 2010, and the Road Trans­port (Long Dis­tance Op­er­a­tions) Award 2010. These awards pre­scribe rates of pay, al­lowances, and a host of other en­ti­tle­ments for lo­cal and long-dis­tance driv­ers. Awards must be fol­lowed, un­less there is a Fair Work Com­mis­sion-ap­proved en­ter­prise agree­ment in place.

En­ter­prise agree­ments will only be ap­proved if em­ploy­ees are bet­ter-of­fover­all un­der the agree­ment than they would be un­der the rel­e­vant award. There are sig­nif­i­cant penal­ties for breach­ing both award and en­ter­prise agree­ment con­di­tions.

While most trans­port com­pa­nies do the right thing, there are bad ap­ples in ev­ery in­dus­try ─ peo­ple who cut cor­ners on safety, peo­ple who don’t play by the rules, and peo­ple who don’t com­ply with the safety nets put in place to pro­tect em­ploy­ees.

By break­ing the rules, these rogue op­er­a­tors make it harder for the good guys to com­pete on a level play­ing field. NatRoad works to en­sure that good and hon­est op­er­a­tors are not pun­ished for do­ing the right thing by their driv­ers.

“There are bad ap­ples in ev­ery in­dus­try.”

WAR­REN CLARK

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