ALRTA News – 13 January 2017

WELCOME BACK

Welcome back to the first ALRTA weekly newsletter of 2017.

While some you might be lucky enough to be reading this near the beach, for most of us it is already time to get back to business as usual……..and that’s not always easy after over-indulging or letting your mind wander!

If you had a break, we hope it was a great one.  If not, we hope you made a few dollars and get some time off soon (maybe even a trip to our National Conference in February?).

I am happy to advise that the ALRTA team is now back on deck and looking forward to helping improve your road transport business in 2017.   Please stay tuned for all the latest news and remember that our family of state associations are just a phone call away whenever you need a hand.

2017: THE DAWN OF A GOLDEN ERA

I have no doubt that 2017 will be a gigantic year for rural road transport.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Australian agriculture has now entered the long-promised golden era where a combination of back-to-back good seasons and strong demand from Asia is dramatically lifting the value of our exports.

Cattle and sheep prices remain close to all-time highs and the grain harvest will be a record 52.4 million tonnes.   The value of national agricultural production is officially forecast to exceed $60bn for the first time in 2017.

To put that in perspective, agricultural exports are now more valuable than coal and second only to iron ore.  I have just returned from an 1,800km road trip around southern NSW and Victoria and only had to look out the window to see just how good this season has been.  I reckon we could stack hay bales to the moon.

Still, it can take a year or two before the cash really starts rolling around rural communities.  Many farmers were up to their eyeballs in debt and will need to address that problem first.  Next comes investing in new machinery, fencing and other equipment.  If we get that far, confidence will be right up there and we might even see some discretionary spending.  A new kitchen anyone?

Agriculture is certainly not “yesterday’s industry” as some city folk might have you believe.  It is a modern and sustainable part of the Australian economy that has an even brighter future still ahead.

The extremely positive projections are welcome news for rural carriers and for the rural and regional communities in which we live…….all of that agricultural produce is not going to get to the port by itself and the fancy Italian door handles for Bev’s new kitchen have got to come back the other way.

It will all be on a heavy vehicle, and with any luck it will be yours.

Right now, fuel prices remain low and interest rates are probably the best you’ll see in your lifetime.  Given half a chance, your rural road transport business should do very, very well.  Who knows, you might even think about expanding.

The ALRTA and our state associations will of course be working hard to help you make the most of the good times.  We will fight to make sure that Governments charge you fairly for the vital infrastructure that you need.  We will seek innovative ways to improve your operating environment.  We will remain ever vigilant against new and unnecessary laws that threaten to regulate you out of existence (think RSRT).

Above all else, we will make sure that you have a voice and that it is heard!

REMINDER: NATIONAL CONFERENCE

It is only five weeks until the ALRTA and LRTAQ combined National Conference to be held 17-18 February 2017 in Toowoomba, QLD.

Delegates will hear from keynote speakers including:

  • QLD Minister for Transport – the Hon Stirling Hinchliffe MP
  • Federal Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister – the Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP
  • Founder of the ‘Heart of Australia’ mobile specialist medical service – Dr Rolf Gomes

The national policy session will include highlights such as:

  • NTI Major Crash Report:  Protect yourself by knowing about the latest accident trends and risk factors.
  • Rollovers:  An expert presentation on how it happens – You may be surprised!
  • Electronic Stability Control:  Will it be mandatory and is it right for you?
  • Farm Gate Access: Hear about the nation-leading program in WA and how it is being tackled in the East.
  • Effluent Control: Can chain of responsibility really work?
  • A focus on new technology: What is under development and when will it be available?

You can also relax with a round of golf, meet the locals at our community breakfast, grab a bargain at the fund raising auction and kick your heals up at the legendary Bull Carter’s Ball.

The full two-day program of events and registration brochures can be found here.  We hope to see you there!

REMINDER: HAVE YOUR SAY ON VICTORIAN OWNER DRIVER LAWS

The Victorian Government is currently undertaking a review of the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 (ODFC) with responses due by 31 January 2017.

The ALRTA is assisting with this issue because there is once again the potential for mandatory minimum rates.  We have seen it with the RSRT at the Federal level, we have seen it with the General Carriers Contract Determination in NSW, and now the battleground has shifted to Victoria.  Your state might be next!

The ALRTA and LRTAV are preparing submissions on behalf of rural transporters.

If you are an owner driver that operates a heavy vehicle within Victoria or you come into Victoria from another state you could be affected by any changes to the laws.

Please consider making a short personal submission supporting our campaign against the introduction of new red tape or mandatory minimum rates for rural carriers in Victoria.

What is the ODFC?

The ODFC applies to owner drivers that supply and operate one or more vehicles (whether solely or with the use of additional relief drivers).   It covers sole operators, partnerships and corporations.

It applies to:

  • contracts made in Victoria (or that Victorian law applies to)
  • transport of goods wholly within Victoria
  • interstate journeys where a substantial part of the services are performed in Victoria

The ODFC provides that:

  • The Minister must develop and publish rates schedules for fixed and variable heavy vehicle operating costs
  • Hirers and freight brokers must give contractors & tenderers an information booklet and a copy of the rates schedules (some exceptions apply for short-term work)
  • Contracts must be in writing with specified minimum content
  • Notice be given when contracts are terminated, or a payment made in lieu of notice
  • Hirers cannot require a contractor to pay insurance costs if a copy of current policy has not been provided
  • Hirers cannot make other deductions for services or equipment except in specified circumstances
  • Hirers and contractors are permitted use negotiating agents
  • A Code of Practice be prescribed that can apply to classes of hirers and operators
  • Unconscionable conduct is prohibited
  • Disputes may be referred to the Small Business Commissioner, with rules on costs, processes, representation and time limits
  • A tribunal with specified powers be established to hear disputes if unable to a resolved via the Small Business Commissioner
  • A ‘Transport Industry Council of Victoria’ be established to advise and make relevant recommendations to the Minister for Industrial Relations
  • Protections are enshrined for persons exercising their rights under the ODFC
  • The ODFC prevails over all regulated contracts

What changes are proposed?

The review is ‘all encompassing’ and clearly aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the current arrangements and exploring whether additional laws or guidelines are required.

The only specific recommendations under consideration relate to the development of a non-mandatory rates and cost schedule for tip trucks and measures to ensure that these are applied during normal hiring practices.

What to Include in your submission

Your submission need not be long and formal.  A simple email with a few dot points will do fine.

Some things you should consider including:

  • You are an owner driver or a hirer that is potentially affected by the ODFC
  • You are supportive of a safe and fair operating environment
  • Rural road transport is very different from urban or inter-capital transport tasks because it involves a lot of short-notice work, backloads, part loads, multiple hirers, empty running, and an owner driver can act as both a prime and sub-contractor
  • If you use a tipper, please provide some examples of how you use it (what do you carry, locations, distance, loading/unloading facilities, rates etc). We want to show that rural tipper work is very different to urban tipper work
  • You are concerned that new requirements applicable to tippers to address problems in the construction sector might cause problems for tippers in the rural sector
  • You are strongly opposed to any potential move towards mandatory minimum rates
  • Your experience with minimum rates under the RSRT was that owner drivers could no longer compete with larger trucking companies
  • You have pre-existing equipment finance or other loan commitments that must be serviced and do not want regulatory disruption to your business
  • Negative outcomes for owner drivers will have disproportionate impacts in rural and regional areas, including for all ancillary transport services
  • You are concerned that rural carriers are not adequately represented on the Transport Industry Council of Victoria (this body advises the Victorian Industrial Relations Minister about owner driver matters)

How to lodge your submission

You can email you submission to odfc.yoursay@ecodev.vic.gov.au or post it to:

Deputy Secretary, Industrial Relations Victoria
GPO Box 4509
Melbourne Victoria 3001

Submissions are due by 31 January 2017.  All submissions will be treated in confidence.

Other Information

You can find the key documents here:

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