Rip-off rate the norm

The road trans­port in­dus­try is unique in many ways, par­tic­u­larly the method used in work­ing out how driv­ers are paid or, more pre­cisely, un­der­paid. The In­ter­stater writes

Owner Driver - - News -

DIDN’T THAT set the cat among the pi­geons? Go­ing by the mas­sive amount of feed­back re­ceived about my Septem­ber col­umn, it’s painfully ob­vi­ous there are far more truck driv­ers in this coun­try that don’t know just how much they are be­ing ripped off. Fewer know how much, while even fewer still don’t know just how it is be­ing or­ches­trated.

Be­ing ripped off has been as much a part of truck­ing as freight, fuel or round tyres, but it has not been dealt with like it de­serves.

It is en­demic, wide­spread, and has been go­ing on for so long it has un­wit­tingly be­come ex­pected.

It’s time to ad­dress it head-on by ev­ery­one – driv­ers, owner-driv­ers, govern­ment bod­ies and, ul­ti­mately, ev­ery sin­gle em­ployer in this in­dus­try.

Be­cause if it isn’t rec­ti­fied soon, the past dev­as­ta­tion will in­crease to much higher lev­els than ever be­fore due to the ridicu­lous in­crease in the use of road trains east of the West­ern Aus­tralian bor­der and up the whole length of the east coast of Aus­tralia.

It shouldn’t have sur­prised as many peo­ple as it has that the way pays are made up is not right. It’s plain and sim­ple: if you get paid the an­ti­quated (and hope­fully soon to be ob­so­lete) way of ‘X’ amount per kilo­me­tre then you must pay tax on that amount. If you don’t, you run the risk of be­ing au­dited by the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice (ATO).

You’ll not only be made to make up the short­fall that your em­ployer has failed to pay on your be­half, but a sub­stan­tial fine as well.

The next step the ma­jor­ity of em­ploy­ers do, which is to­tally and com­pletely wrong, is be­fore fig­ur­ing out just how much of what they con­sider ‘their money’ they have to fork out to the ATO. They choose to re­move the liv­ing away from home al­lowance (LAHA), which is a tax-free ben­e­fit, so it is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the kilo­me­tre rate of monies that are tax­able. No doubt you have all been told that it is to re­duce ‘your’ tax each week. Well, not so. It is to re­duce the amount of money that they have to give the ATO.

It also re­duces their WorkCover pre­mium and their pay­roll tax. It also re­duces your hol­i­day pay rate and it ac­tu­ally re­duces the amount of su­per­an­nu­a­tion that they must pay you be­cause they have also been able to con­vince the ATO that you are to be paid less super per week.

Su­per­an­nu­a­tion is paid on an em­ployee’s base rate, and our base rate is ‘X’ cents per kilo­me­tre.

Super is a guar­an­teed amount that is to be paid, cur­rently at 9.5 per cent of your base rate. What’s that? You’re not? Well join the club.

It’s the same as the BS about get­ting paid to do pick-ups and de­liv­er­ies they say is built into the kilo­me­tre rate.

It’s pretty darn good for them but not so for 99 per cent of driv­ers.

How have they been able to con­vince any­one that it is okay to add a few pen­nies to the kilo­me­tre rate for a de­liv­ery that can be af­ter a dis­tance of well over a few hun­dred kilo­me­tres or more than 1000km? It sim­ply doesn’t com­pute.

It’s the same with fu­elling up the truck you drive. They say it’s all part of the job, but it still av­er­ages out to los­ing a couple of hours per week, which equates to well over 100 hours per year. That’s a hell of a lot of money, and once again you lose.

The only log­i­cal way of get­ting back to any­where near where we need to be when it comes to full wage re­cov­ery (FWR) is to do what the ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralians do, and that is start get­ting paid by the hour.

And let’s not for­get that, like a lo­cal driver, we should be en­ti­tled to time and a half af­ter do­ing the first eight hours, then af­ter two more hours have ex­pired we should be paid dou­ble time.

It’s just like lo­cal driv­ers have in­sisted, while we have been taken for a ride. Let’s not for­get what all this means to an owner-driver.

As we should all know, an own­er­driver is only val­ued at the rate which is in di­rect con­trast to what a com­pany long-dis­tance truck driver is cost­ing to do the same job.


The thing that was most re­quested to be ex­plained from peo­ple en­quir­ing about last month’s col­umn was how, what, when, and who had to pay the 3.3 per cent pay rise on July 1 this year. And who was sup­posed to re­ceive it. It’s eas­ily an­swered with a copy of the memo sent out to all em­ployer mem­bers of NatRoad.

But the sur­prised re­ply af­ter it was pointed out to the em­ploy­ers (who were in fact NatRoad mem­bers) was that they didn’t know any­thing about the pay rise. They wanted more in­for­ma­tion. No prob­lem, it’s pretty easy to get a copy of the lat­est award. Job done, or so you would think.

It’s amaz­ing that em­ploy­ers think an en­ter­prise bar­gain­ing agree­ment (EBA) that hasn’t been sighted by ev­ery one of its em­ploy­ees, let alone agreed upon, is valid.

Now let’s be crys­tal clear, if you haven’t been given a copy of the cur­rent EBA that you are sup­posed to be em­ployed un­der, then your em­ployer is in breach of em­ploy­ment law. If you have not re­ceived a copy of the ex­ist­ing EBA at the time of vot­ing on a new EBA, then you are not in a po­si­tion to make an in­formed de­ci­sion on the new EBA, which makes it an un­law­ful EBA ar­range­ment.

The other ele­phant in the room is who is en­ti­tled to this 3.3 per cent. Un­for­tu­nately, the com­mon mis­nomer is that any cur­rent EBA can en­cum­brance this lat­est award in­crease. Sorry, wrong per­cep­tion guys.

The best way to ex­plain it is if you are for­tu­nate enough to have bar­gained your way to, let’s say, a 10 per cent above the award EBA, then good luck to you. But that 10 per cent isn’t to be re­duced now just be­cause the award has right­fully risen by 3.3 per cent. If that was the case it would equate to a 3.3 per cent pay re­duc­tion.

The gap be­tween your EBA and the award is so be­cause it was ar­gued against the award, as it was at the time of bar­gain­ing your EBA. So if this 3.3 per cent isn’t given to you and your work group, then your EBA has been com­pro­mised, which in ef­fect makes it null and void – and it’s back to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble.

To be hon­est, I am yet to see an EBA that is bet­ter than the award, when you take into ac­count ev­ery penalty you have lost through your EBA. It might be a good time to sug­gest that if you are lucky enough to be in the mid­dle of an EBA ne­go­ti­a­tion, then it would be the per­fect time to get with the concept of mak­ing it all about go­ing to the bet­ter op­tion of be­ing paid by the hour, from the time you grab the keys till the time you give them back at the end of the week or shift, with the ex­clu­sion of any time spent sleep­ing or eat­ing. This will cre­ate a much fairer sys­tem for you, the bread­win­ner of your fam­ily, be­ing paid what you are re­ally worth.


Road trains are very im­pres­sive, large and tough looking. They have a bit of old school about them, but do we need them? I say ‘no’. I ex­pect to get paid for all I do, so that counts me out.

How many peo­ple would think that any­one driv­ing one on the east coast would be paid at a much higher rate than a B-dou­ble driver? Well, think again. Re­mark­ably, road train driv­ers have been conned into be­liev­ing they are only en­ti­tled to the same money as a B-dou­ble driver be­cause, af­ter all, there are only two trail­ers.

They seem to for­get about the third pivot point that makes it that much harder to re­verse out of dan­ger, or to take it off a ma­jor route to avoid road clo­sures, fires, floods, crashes and the like. There are many rea­sons the ex­tra money that it is sup­posed to at­tract is more than war­ranted and earned.

I re­ceived word that one such very large Aus­tralia-wide com­pany has a few road trains run­ning around South Aus­tralia, and it is only pay­ing the B-dou­ble rate be­cause the driv­ers are still try­ing to get their EBA fi­nalised af­ter five years.

It’s no secret that one par­tic­u­lar man­ager is well known for mak­ing his feel­ings heard about his be­lief that driv­ers are over­paid as it is. In his learned opinion no ex­tra money is jus­ti­fied at all.

That mob is not alone with its ‘we will pay what we think is enough’ at­ti­tude. There is also a large mob that prefers road train tip­pers as their ‘un­der­pay­ing, road trans­port-de­stroy­ing mon­strosi­ties’.

It is not just up to driv­ers to get some­thing done about this mas­sive un­fold­ing anom­aly. It is in ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­est to get these rates of pay sorted. As we have all seen time and time again, it’s be­cause the mi­nor­ity flout the Fed­eral Award for driv­ers that gives them an­other un­fair ad­van­tage when slid­ing around like a snake, un­der­cut­ting your rates as well.

Ev­ery two road trains put one sin­gle trailer sub­bie fur­ther down the food chain. It’s al­ready started, so don’t blame me when your work starts to dry up and per­haps even dis­ap­pears com­pletely.


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