Why the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal should be abolished

Similar levels of research have accompanied the introduction of drink driving laws and speed limits, not to mention new safety requirements for vehicles. Having this evidence available is a critical step in the policy making process, as it helps to ensure laws are appropriately tailored to conditions and designed in such a way that will achieve their intended result.

Having a body of evidence builds confidence in new ideas and policy proposals, as evidenced now by the public’s acceptance of seat belts, drink driving and speeding rules. It is this sort of evidence that encouraged all governments and industry to invest years of time and resources into the creation of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

The same, I regret to say, cannot be said for the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

When I appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on the Road Safety Remuneration Bill in 2012, I said the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal would add another layer of regulation, create confusion, impede industry efforts to improve productivity in the industry and do nothing to improve safety. Almost four years on from this parliamentary committee hearing and we are seeing the true effect of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

An Order from the Tribunal covering contractor drivers’ minimum payments is creating untold confusion and potential costs in the heavy vehicle industry, with many contracting companies now fearful they will be driven out of the industry. The chorus of objections to the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order in the past few weeks demonstrates the practical difficulties associated with rate setting in this area.

ALC has consistently maintained that the abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal is the best option to avoid the duplication, confusion and costs that would inevitably result from the Tribunal’s orders.

Two independent reports recently released by the Government have confirmed this.

A report by Price Waterhouse Coopers found that the cost of the Tribunal’s orders would be in the vicinity of $2.3 billion. It said the abolition of the system would result in significant net benefit to the economy and community at large.

The report also referred to the high degree of regulatory overlap between the Tribunal and with other agencies who oversee road transport, safety and workplace matters such as the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, state road authorities and workplace safety agencies.

A separate independent report in 2014 of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has recommended that the Road Safety Remuneration System should not continue in its current form. 

At the time of writing, industry is anticipating the introduction of legislation to ensure that orders setting mandatory remuneration rates for truck drivers cannot commence before 1 January 2017. ALC hopes this bill receives parliamentary support.

More broadly, the Government is conducting a review of the Road Safety Remuneration System, which ALC will contribute to. We will tell the Government that the best way to achieve safety improvements in the heavy vehicle industry is through greater compliance and enforcement of Chain of Responsibility, which is part of the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

In 2016, Chain of Responsibility laws are to be amended, including the introduction of a ‘primary duty of care’ that will be similar in nature to those contained in workplace health and safety legislation. Some of these obligations will extend to the executive officers of these duty holders. We also expect the introduction of a new risk-based approach to heavy vehicle inspections and changes to how codes of practice are treated under the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

Improving safety on our road will be achieved through promoting understanding and compliance with Chain of Responsibility obligations – key facts that are invariably ignored by proponents of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

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