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Owner Drivers Advice

February 10, 2021

After staunch advocacy by your Branch Secretary John Berger and the TWU, the Victorian Government has legislated changes to the Owner Driver and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 (the ODFC Act). The ODFC Act came into force on 1 May 2020.

Under the amended Act:

  • people and business may face penalties if they fail to meet their obligations.
  • the Wage Inspectorate is responsible for investigating and prosecuting offences.

A dedicated team within the Wage Inspectorate has been set up to educate hirers and contractors about the Act and ensure industry compliance.

Scope of the ODFC Act

The ODFC Act covers:

  • Owner-drivers that operate up to 3 vehicles to transport goods (not passengers).
  • haulage and harvesting contractors in forestry.
  • anyone hiring these drivers or contractors.
  • freight brokers.

The Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Code of Practice has guidance on how to comply with the Act.

Obligation to provide information:

Hirers or freight brokers that engage contractors for 30 days or more (or a total of at least 30 days within a 3 month period) must give them:

  • the information booklet that applies to their industry
  • the rates and cost schedule that relates to their vehicle.

This information allows contractors to better understand their operating costs. It is available at business.vic.gov.au/odfc.

Generally, owner drivers and forestry contractors must receive this information at least 3 days before being engaged.

Contracts must be in writing

Hirers must enter into written contracts with owner drivers and forestry contractors if their ongoing engagement is for 30 days or more or has no fixed end-dated. The contract should set out:

  • the guarantee minimum hours of work or income level
  • the rates to be paid
  • the minimum notice to end the contract or payment instead of notice

A model contract is available at business.vic.gov.au/odfc

Payments and Notice to end contracts

Generally, hirers must pay contractors invoices within 30 days of receiving them. Generally, if an ongoing engagement is for 3 months or more, hirers, owner drivers and forestry contractors must give enough notice that the contract is ending.

This is at least:

  • 3 months for forestry contractors and owner drivers of heavy vehicles
  • 1 month for all other owner drivers

Otherwise, hirers must provide payment instead of notice.

You are protected under the Act

People must not be treated badly because they exercise their right under the Act.

Hirers must not disadvantage owner drivers and forestry contractors for raising health and safety issues or seeking to negotiate contracts. Owner drivers must not be disadvantaged for joining their union.

How to handle disagreements

The Victorian Small Business Commission can help to resolve disputes between hirers and contractors. Contact the TWU if you need help with representation for your issue.

www.vsbc.vic.gov.au

If your dispute does not get resolved, you can refer it to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which can make a range of orders to deal with issues. VCAT can also make changes to contract terms if it decides they are unjust. The TWU can help guide you through the process, as can Wage Inspectorate Victoria.