Strange bed­fel­lows

The road trans­port as­so­ci­a­tions have in­di­rectly teamed up with the TWU to op­pose the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice cuts to long- dis­tance driver travel claims. But what is their agenda? The Interstater pon­ders

Owner Driver - - Owner / Driver - To send feed­back, e-mail The Interstater at thein­ter­stater@gmail.com.

THEY’RE AT it again, chew­ing away at the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice (ATO). You might not be­lieve this but ‘they’, be­ing the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (ATA) are pur­port­ing that the in­dus­try is pre­sent­ing a united front be­cause they are be­ing sup­ported by the Na­tional Road Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion ( NatRoad), the Aus­tralian Road Trans­port In­dus­trial Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ARTIO) and, oddly enough, the Trans­port Work­ers Union (TWU).

Surely, with­out any driv­ers mak­ing their thoughts and feel­ings known, it’s hardly united.

Col­lec­tively they would have you and the ATO be­lieve that they are best placed in ‘ad­vis­ing’ the ATO where it has gone wrong with the re­duc­tion of long- dis­tance driv­ers’ travel claims. They told the ATO that it should re­vert back to the old amount of $97.40, plus a small ad­just­ment for a lit­tle bit of CPI.

WHAT CPI?

Now, firstly, have they been hit on the arse with a bolt of light­ning lately? What makes them think that they can men­tion the term CPI when none of their mem­bers would dare ut­ter those three let­ters? When was the last time any­one in truck­ing re­ceived a CPI in­crease?

Sec­ondly, why is it so im­por­tant to these so- called ex­perts whether the travel al­lowance is $97.40, $55.30 or a flat 10 bucks? Surely they are aware very few of their mem­bers pay it any­way.

Per­haps the ATO needs to be shown just how dis­hon­est the whole in­dus­try is when it comes to pay­ing these al­lowances.

So let’s be per­fectly clear. What this means is that when you are be­ing paid per kilo­me­tre, you are sup­posed to be paid ‘X’ amount of kilo­me­tres, let’s say 5000 for the week, mul­ti­plied by say 44 cents per kilo­me­tre (for ev­ery kilo­me­tre). So that’ll be $2200 gross for the kilo­me­tres driven.

For those that don’t seem to ac­knowl­edge it, there should also be an amount for all of the load­ing, un­load­ing, fu­elling, wash­ing the truck etc. For the sake of bal­ance, let’s say $30 per hour for an av­er­age of 20 hours per week min­i­mum.

So what have we got there? We have $2800 gross. Not a bad re­turn for the time, dan­ger and loss of home-time with the ones we love. Now we do have to pay tax on all of that. Well, we don’t pay the tax, our em­ploy­ers do; hence any re­duc­tion in the amount of tax paid re­ally re­duces the amount that they have to pass onto the ATO.

So how can an em­ployer in the truck­ing in­dus­try re­duce the amount of money that leaves their bank ac­count and ar­rives in the cof­fers of the ATO? He or she sim­ply has to re­duce your gross tax­able in­come some­how. How is that done? Re­move as many tax-free ben­e­fits as pos­si­ble prior to cal­cu­lat­ing the gross, some­thing like $97.40 per day times six. So now we have $2800, less ($97.40 x 6) $584.40, leav­ing tax payable on $2215.60 only.

What this stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure achieves is a tax pay­ment re­duc­tion for ev­ery­one em­ploy­ing a truck driver, mul­ti­plied by the amount of truck driv­ers they have in their em­ploy.

Just so we are clear here, it also means that the driv­ers are pay­ing their own travel al­lowance. But if and when the truck driver is au­dited by the ATO, he must be able to sub­stan­ti­ate the full amount claimed with a full year of re­ceipts. The em­ployer is sit­ting high and dry, and doesn’t have to show cause as to how the deficit hap­pened, even though the driver had no hand in how much was for­warded to the ATO.

Can any­one guess why the em­ploy­ers are seething about hav­ing less re­duc­tions avail­able at present? That is why all of these as­so­ci­a­tions are join­ing forces to fight a com­mon in­ter­est.

They are fight­ing like an AdBlue Ken­worth on a hot day climb­ing the Moonbi Range.

CON JOB

The ATA has prior form on deal­ing with the ATO in re­gard to screw­ing driv­ers in the past with su­per­an­nu­a­tion. They were so ex­treme in their need to please their masters, they had the ATO staff give up and bow to their de­mands.

Su­per­an­nu­a­tion is leg­is­lated to be paid on a per­son’s base rate and be­cause long- dis­tance driv­ers are paid a base rate of ‘X’ amount of cents per kilo­me­tre, what that means is they are to be paid cur­rently 9.5 per cent of ev­ery kilo­me­tre driven – noth­ing more, noth­ing less.

In plain speak, you are to be paid 9.5 per cent for the first 1000km you drive, 9.5 per cent for the last 1000km driven and 9.5 per cent for ev­ery kilo­me­tre in be­tween. But they don’t be­cause they conned the ATO into be­liev­ing that they knew oth­er­wise; they were wrong, but that doesn’t mat­ter when the ATO is afraid of you.

Again, these as­so­ci­a­tions will once again go on the at­tack un­til they get their way, leav­ing truck driv­ers worse off. And why will that hap­pen? Be­cause you don’t have any­one telling your side of the story! The TWU will be there, but how de­fi­cient are they to tell your story when they have not walked five miles in your shoes?

I have a say­ing when it comes to our plight and it goes like this: “Not enough peo­ple know what it is that we do for a liv­ing.” And to take that a lit­tle fur­ther, the ATO has no idea what we do for a liv­ing or how we do what we do or what’s in­volved in do­ing what we do for this coun­try.

The ATO isn’t on the at­tack against we truck driv­ers, it is sim­ply try­ing out our re­solve. It is do­ing what it is sup­posed to do, but they are look­ing in the wrong wal­let and they are ask­ing the wrong peo­ple to ex­plain. But that’s okay be­cause most truck driv­ers are of the be­lief that their boss is a good bloke that wouldn’t rip them off. That is un­til one day when they leave that job and look back over their shoul­der and think for a split sec­ond: “Did I just get ripped off or what?”

But then, it’s too late.

IN­DUS­TRY ANOM­ALY

If it wasn’t for this magazine and its web­site, hardly any­one would even know about this. Do you think that is by ac­ci­dent? Why haven’t more truck driv­ers heard about this? What chance do our friends, the owner-driv­ers (or ‘small fam­ily busi­nesses’ as Michaelia Cash refers to them as) have of get­ting a rate rise, CPI or oth­er­wise, when the re­duc­tion in the cost of em­ploy­ing a com­pany driver means the op­pos­ing costs of ‘us­ing’ an owner- driver is greatly re­duced?

The only hope owner-driv­ers have of be­ing in a bet­ter po­si­tion to scratch out a rate rise is if and when ( be­cause it must hap­pen) long- dis­tance com­pany driv­ers start be­ing paid by the hour for ev­ery hour worked and driven.

To coin a phrase that not many owner- driv­ers like to be re­minded of the Road Safety Re­mu­ner­a­tion Tri­bunal which would have taken care of these anom­alies well and truly by now.

KEEP­ING RE­CEIPTS

The point missed by the TWU is this: the re­cent re­duc­tion by the ATO won’t have much of an ef­fect on the ma­jor­ity of truck driv­ers be­cause most don’t re­ceive the al­lowance any­way.

The only real dif­fer­ence now is driv­ers will hope­fully pay more at­ten­tion to get­ting a re­ceipt and fil­ing it, know­ing it means a real tax re­turn un­like any­thing they have pre­vi­ously seen.

There is another way of look­ing at this and that is if no- one had their al­lowances de­ducted from their weekly pay and kept the re­ceipts for ev­ery le­git­i­mate pur­chase they made through­out the year, then claimed the whole lot at tax time, their next hol­i­day would be well and truly funded, and their car would be in a much bet­ter con­di­tion me­chan­i­cally as well.

DO­ING THE MATHS

Is there any­thing to be learned from all of this? Ab­so­lutely! Never trust any­one that you drive for and lobby to be paid by the hour. Re­mem­ber, an EBA must not leave you worse off than you would be un­der the Fed­eral Award. And al­ways re­mem­ber that any EBA can be bro­ken by ei­ther side.

Once that EBA has been bro­ken, then both par­ties must re­vert back to the award.

Do the maths, work out ex­actly how many hours you work per week, and that is made up of ev­ery 15-minute block of time that is as­so­ci­ated in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the work­ings of your em­ployer’s busi­ness. Any load­ing, un­load­ing, fu­elling up, run­ning around chas­ing tyre fit­ters, auto elec­tri­cians, wind­screen fit­ters, Cum­mins, Detroit or Cater­pil­lar – doesn’t mat­ter where you are, in your home town or thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away, if you can’t reach out and grab a beer out of your fridge at home, or give your wife and/or kids a kiss, then you are at work and must be paid. Fire­men are, politi­cians are, sales­men are, and all those that sell things to this in­dus­try are too. We are no dif­fer­ent.

TWO OF THE BEST

We lost one of the most pop­u­lar blokes on June 18, one that I and many of you would have known – John ‘Bear’ Tay­lor, an ex Eas­toe’s Trans­port com­pany man. Now we have lost another great high­way man in John ‘Whiplash’ Niessink, ex Kwika­sair and be­yond.

Two of the very best ever. RIP gen­tle­men.

“An EBA must not leave you worse off than you would be un­der the Fed­eral Award.”

THE VOICE OF THE TRUCK DRIVER

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