WA owner truckies reject minimum pay

Truck drivers who own and operate their own small businesses say they are being forced out and have urged politicians to abolish the contentious road safety tribunal.

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West Australian small business owner Mark Talbot said after meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that he could not afford to employ truck drivers as subcontractors if he had to comply with the minimum pay rates the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal is trying to set.

The intention of better pay rates is supposed to be to improve safety on the nation’s roads and prevent long-running problems, such as driver fatigue and drug abuse as truckies struggle to stay awake and do more trips to earn more.

However the WA-based owner-operators that Liberal MP Nola Marino organised to meet with the PM said they don’t want minimum pay rates that will drive small business owners under.

“Mums and dads are getting hurt the most, young families having a go at a business in the transport industry that we as an operator try to employ and give a chance to build a business but now it is harder for us to use,” Mr Talbot, the owner of Wedderburn Transport in south-west WA, told reporters.

The industry was already well regulated and safe, he said.

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce said the pay rules would be bad for the economy in situations where a driver delivered a full load of cattle thousands of kilometres across Australia but then had to return back to the east or west coast.

“A small load of a couple of bulls can at least pay for fuel to get my rig back home but you can’t do that anymore … … you have got to charge that farmer full tote odds or you will get fined and you’ll find even the farmer gets fined,” he told reporters.

WA truckie Mark Sullivan, owner of Cunderdin Transport, said economies in rural towns would be hurt if owner-operators were driven out of business, with local IGA supermarkets and mechanics’ business that rely on trucks all affected.

The Transport Workers Union’s secretary Tony Sheldon denies the Labor-backed tribunal helps increase its power at unionised companies, saying a scare campaign is being run and the aim is to save lives and protect the welfare of truck drivers.