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
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.
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.”