The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has been wiped from the statute books by the federal parliament following a senate vote passed by 36 to 32.
Passing through both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill 2016 had the support of independent senators Jacqui Lambie, Nick Xenophon, John Madigan, Glenn Lazarus, and minor party members Zhenya (Dio) Wang as well as Bob Day.
Holding to his original opinion from 2014, senator Ricky Muir voted against the bill.
It also means the controversial Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 (RSRO) was also removed when the abolition act commenced on 21 April.
Introducing the Bill into the House of Representatives, Industry, Innovation, and Science minister Christopher Pyne said the Bill “stands by owner drivers and mum-and-dad small businesses who just want to earn an honest living.”
The leader of the house says the RSRT’s refusal to delay the order, “in the face of widespread confusion and misunderstanding” was “the last straw”.
“Road accidents involving trucks involve both owner-drivers and employee-drivers and in 84 per cent of cases are caused by the other vehicle involved, not the truck,” he says.
“To single one group out, effectively branding them as unsafe, is not only unfair, but it’s also wrong, and enormously insulting.”
The minister also took a shot at the TWU saying it had instigated a tribunal that had “devastating effects on the industry”.
“What an extraordinary and absurd turn of events — the union for whom the tribunal was created, who attacked owner drivers for challenging the Payments Order and went to the Federal Court only two weeks ago to have a stay of the order lifted, is now before its tribunal saying, ‘We’ve changed our mind, we want you to delay the order’,” Pyne said.
He was annoyed by the notion that improved payments will slow down the ‘cowboys’.
“As one owner-driver told me, if you pay the cowboy drivers more, because they are cowboys, they will just drive more — more hours, longer distances, to get that money.”
Other concerns surrounded the lack of rest breaks in the RSRO and that it doesn’t take safety training into account – “practical measures have all been recognised as having a significant impact on safety and yet the order does not mention them,” he said.
“We will now redirect all the resources from the Road Safety Remuneration System — $4 million each year — to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to ensure the tangible safety measures the industry want are given priority,” he said.
Federal Infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester said the RSRT was a tribunal of industrial umpires and could not claim to be experts in road safety.
“The NHVR should be the body controlling this because it has the expert knowledge and understanding needed to bring about improvements to the safety of the road transport industry,” the minister said.
Employment minister Michaelia Cash who lead the coalition’s efforts, said the government will consult with state governments and the industry to determine how best this resourcing can be used to re-prioritise and strengthen safety measures that will work at the roadside.
It seems that just about everyone in the industry agrees logic has triumphed and the RSRT will be consigned to history as a bad dream.
New South Wales has said it will trial a technology solution to congestion by connecting trucks with traffic lights.
The system, which will be introduced to 100 intersections across Sydney, smoothing the flow of traffic and reducing the number of times a truck has to stop at traffic lights throughout the day.
NSW Roads, Maritime, and Freight minister Duncan Gay said trucks take longer to stop and accelerate compared to smaller vehicles, a congestion-creating situation at times, so the trial will see truck drivers receive more green lights.
“This trial will detect a heavy vehicle approaching traffic lights and provide more green time, which will hopefully show us how we can ease delays for all motorists across the whole network in the future,” he says.
“We could potentially expand the use of this kind of technology to emergency vehicles and buses which could improve daily commutes – the opportunities are vast.”
To accommodate the trial, smart infrastructure will be fitted on 110 trucks and on key freight corridors, such as the intersections on Pennant Hills Road, Parramatta Road, and King Georges Road.
The technology comes from local company Codha Wireless, which will fit the Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (CITS) technology in the trucks and open communication between truck and infrastructure.
“The results of this project will inform the way we look at incorporating connected vehicle technology on other vehicles and is a key step towards making Sydney infrastructure-ready for connected and automated vehicles in the future,” Gay says.
To cover any fears of traffic accidents, the intersections will be monitored by the Transport Management Centre, which can override the wireless technology if required.