Owner Driver Working Group

As the Owner Drivers arrived on mass at the doorstep of the Australian Parliament in April 2016, Gordon Mackinlay was amongst them. Mackinlay had started a Facebook group for Owner Drivers to rally together the disparate small trucking operators from across the Australia into a convoy, protesting the RSRT.

It was a call very much in the spirit of the returned servicemen who nearly 70 years ago got together to take on crippling taxes designed to protect the rail freight monopoly, forming the forerunning organisation that led to NatRoad.

Where the national association had been busy in the Federal Court of Australia challenging the RSRT and talking to the politicians who would soon make the call to abolish the Tribunal – Mackinlay’s call and the convoy it inspired; was grassroots action with a hint of rebellion, a hallmark of NatRoad.

It was like a meeting of the minds and wills when Mackinlay and Warren Clark met. Warren not even six months into his term as NatRoad Chief Executive found a man prepared to have a go, just like him.

Mackinlay joined NatRoad as a member and Clark went on to finish what he started at Christmas time in 2015 when the battle lines were first drawn.

In the wake of the RSRT we were left with a legacy – not of an industry brought to its knees but of a people brought together for the first time in a long time.

Owner Drivers are a notoriously difficult sector to bring together and to engage with due to the time constraints of running a small trucking business.

A major threat may have passed but people were talking to each other and sharing their experiences and finding they were not alone with the same frustrations and challenges.

Clark had spoken with many owner drivers since the RSRT issue flared up and could see that years of chopping and changing in compliance created a number of challenges for small trucking businesses.

It was clear there was still more to do.

“The voice of owner drivers is an important voice and we want to make sure that owner drivers continue to be heard by governments and regulators on a range of issues,” he said.

The NatRoad Owner Driver Working Group was announced with a call for expressions of interests from owner drivers.

Clark indicated that least six times per year the Owner Driver Working Group would meet via teleconference to discuss proposed industry changes, experiences and practical challenges that could be addressed by regulators, including by helping cut the red tape involved in running a small trucking business.

Meet the Owner Driver Working Group 

The Working Group was appointed ensuring there was a mix of experience, time in industry and representation from across the States with many people having grown up around trucks.

Mackinlay of Holbrook New South Wales joins seven owner drivers, from across Australia which have been appointed to work through the issues and challenges of running small trucking businesses.

Mackinlay says he loves being an owner driver, who has been driving for 11 years. He is deeply passionate about thriving in and improving the industry.

“I am delighted to work with other owner drivers from across Australia to improve the livehoods of people running their own trucking businesses,” he said

“We are hoping to simplify paperwork, provide education tools from running a small trucking business efficiently as well as putting forward real on the ground experiences that governments and regulators could address.

Fiona Coombs from Morayfield in Queensland shares Mackinlay’s passion.

Fiona grew up on a diary and crop farm near Finley and started a vehicle trimming and upholstery business. Leaving Finley for Brisbane, Fiona got her licence and started sharing the interstate driving with her husband – together they have carted fuel, grain, worked as full rig subcontractors and B-double operators.

Maggie Welsh from Kootingal in New South Wales is a name familiar to many as she has been in the industry for around 30 years. Today, with her husband, they supply dairy farms with hay, carry agricultural and general freight running regularly from Northern NSW to SA. “The physical and mental health of our industry is as important as being able to work our trucks.”

“I am an absolute believer in having grassroots interaction with both bureaucracy and politicians,”says Ken Wilkie from Bannockburn in Queensland and avid contributor to Owner Driver Magazine, a former NatRoad board member who has been in the industry the

Pauline and her husband Glen from Barooga in New South Wales have been owner drivers for about 20 years specialising in the bulk and hay sector. It’s a family business with three sons working alongside their parents. Pauline started in the industry at a young age in her family’s transport components business.

“We have never been more passionate about the industry that we all love, “Pauline says.

Glyn Castanelli from Maryborough in Victoria calls transport his third career after time as a brickie and printer, yet his love of trucks extends from childhood. Ï love driving, feeling free, looking out through the same paddocks never seems to get boring to me. “Glyn says. He could not believe how little input owner drivers had in the industry. “So here I am hoping to be able to make sure nothing catches us out like the RSRT again.”

When Wayne Lewis from Coolamon in New South Wales, started in the transport industry he was carting hay on table tops loaded via pitchforks; today he has four prime movers and six trailers. He felt the impacts of the RSRT firsthand where people told him they couldn’t load him because he was an owner driver with son who drives. As he describes it “I felt disrespected and felt like I didn’t belong in an industry that I had given most of my life to and an industry that I was proud to be a part of – I don’t want that to happen every again.”

2016 -2017 Action Plan 

Since being established in July, the Working Group has already met twice this year and with input from a broader group Owner Drivers, the Working Group has agreed upon a clear action list to be pursued by National Road Transport Association with quarterly updates on progress.

Top amongst them is the challenge to the latest round of union backed industrial changes in New South Wales which are causing confusion and loss of work, particularly for small trucking operators and owner drivers. The Owner Driver Working Group backs the ‘Take it back to Sydney’ campaign and is encouraging people to sign the petition to help the NSW Minister for Industrial Relations intervene at www.takeitbacktosydney.com

Contact the Working Group: 

Owner Drivers with issues they would like raised by the Working Group can contact NatRoad on info@natroad.com.au or directly contact a member of the Working Group.

Key Links: 

Ministerial Media Release: RSRT Inquiry Report 

Stronger voice for Owner Drivers 

New Working Group for Owner Drivers