Political promises to abolish the truck industry regulator responsible for pricing drivers out of work won’t alleviate hardships felt today.
As horrendous as the road toll is for the families affected and the community at large, statistics show a trend decline in deaths from crashes involving heavy vehicles, including heavy rigid trucks, over the long term.
But these facts have been set aside with assertions the national truck industry pay regulator, the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), needs to fix minimum pay rates for contract truck drivers to make our roads safer.
And factors unrelated to pay, such as better roads, enhanced vehicle safety technologies, and worker health, driver monitoring and other initiatives championed by industry itself, don’t get their due recognition either.
The first ever RSRT pay ruling is now taking effect, after a federal court delay was recently lifted, with massive implications for a nation heavily reliant upon road transport to haul goods over long distances.
Industry analysts have said the RSRT pay ruling would lift contract rates for independent truck drivers by as much as 30 per cent, and some drivers have indicated payment rates could be even higher for return routes with light freight loads.
The risk is that such a significant cost increase could lead to some drivers being informed their mandatory rates are uncompetitive, and that work is no longer available.
Fewer contract drivers in the market could dilute competitive pressures, enabling large companies with their own truck fleets to more easily raise freight charges over time.
That means, in the end, higher prices for everyday goods that people buy, potentially exacerbating concerns about general cost of living increases as a political issue.
For owner‑operators remaining in the transport sector managing the regulatory compliance costs of the RSRT order will be a constant struggle.
Certain transport industry associations are already telling their members to either adapt to the changing regulatory environment, or otherwise restructure their activities or operations to ensure they can attain viable work in future.
All of these effects are likely to add up to a significant burden upon the transport sector, subsequently flowing through to other industries.
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