The Parliamentary Secretary for Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins, has announced a discussion paper responding to a National Transport Commission study unveiled in 2008. The NTC detected a causal relationship between decreasing safety in the trucking industry and low rates of pay.
The Federal Government’s paper implies a systematic overhaul of remuneration methods. Safe Rates, Safe Roads, explores options for a national approach to truck drivers’ pay and conditions and safety measures across the industry. “The Safe Rates Advisory Group has provided a comprehensive range of practical options for discussion and I look forward to receiving feedback from interested parties,” Senator Collins said.
“We have to tackle the problems of speed and fatigue in the road transport industry and remove economic incentives for drivers to engage in unsafe work practices.” Each year, about 330 people are killed on Australian roads in heavy vehicle accidents. “There is a clear body of evidence linking pay rates to safety on our roads. Drivers feel pressure to work long hours to meet schedules. This pressure leads to drivers speeding and using illicit substances to stay awake,” Senator Collins said.
The new discussion paper outlines different models of safe pay rates, including expanding the role of Fair Work Australia to ensure minimum contract rates so that drivers earn the equivalent of the award wage while driving reasonable hours. The Government has also proposed the establishment of an independent authority or a panel system made up of Fair Work and industry representatives.
According to the paper, pay rates for truck drivers have steadily declined over the last 30 years despite significant growth in the freight task. The consultation period ends on January 28, 2011.