Key features of the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act

Overview

The legislation aims to improve the position of small business owner drivers and forestry contractors in the road transport and forestry industries, while maintaining healthy and competitive industries.

The Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 (legislation) applies to owner driver businesses (including sole traders, non-public companies or partnerships) that operate a maximum of three vehicles in providing services in transporting goods. The Act only applies where the owner of the business also drives one of the vehicles.

The legislation also applies to harvesting and haulage contractors in the forestry industry. 'Haulage contractor' means sole traders, non-public companies or partnerships that provide services transporting forest products. The Act only applies to haulage contractors where the owner of the business also drives one of the vehicles. All harvesting contractors (other than public companies) are covered by the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005.

The legislation applies where contractors are engaged under a contract made in Victoria (or subject to the law of Victoria); or to transport goods or forest products in Victoria; or to transport goods or forest products to or from Victoria (if a substantial part of the services under the contract are performed in Victoria); or to harvest forest products within Victoria.

Purpose of the Act

The purpose of the legislation is to improve the position of small business owner drivers and forestry contractors in the Victorian road transport and forestry industries, whilst maintaining healthy and competitive industries.

The legislation aims to achieve this by establishing a framework for the regulation of contractual dealings between contractors and hirers and freight brokers, and providing contractors with information and support essential to running a successful business. The Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 sets out a number of requirements to assist contractors to improve their business skills and better understand their cost structures.

Key aspects of the Act

Key features of the legislation are:

  • requiring the provision of information to contractors at the time contracts are negotiated
  • requiring contracts of no fixed duration or for a period of at least 30 days to be in writing, and to specify the minimum income or hours of work under the contract
  • setting a minimum period of notice for the termination of contracts
  • including unconscionable conduct and contract variation provisions
  • providing that a provision of a contract is void to the extent that it is contrary to the legislation or the Code
  • providing that claims of unconscionable conduct and disputes arising under the scheme may be dealt with by mediation by the Office of the Victorian Small Business Commissioner, and if not resolved, by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Giving industry a voice

The legislation establishes two industry councils: the Transport Industry Council and the Forestry Industry Council.

The councils comprise representatives of relevant industry associations and provide the Minister for Industrial Relations with advice on:

  • codes of practice to provide guidance to industry about fair business practices
  • information booklets and rates and costs schedules
  • model contracts
  • model forms for the appointment of negotiating agents.

Assisting industry to resolve disputes

The Office of the Victorian Small Business Commissioner provides an independent, low cost and effective alternative dispute resolution service for disputes between owner drivers, forestry contractors and their hirers. The Victorian Small Business Commissioner's services may be used for disputes arising under or in relation to the legislation, Code or a regulated contract, and includes an allegation that a person has contravened the Act, Victorian Regulations, Code or a regulated contract. 

Alternative dispute resolution includes preliminary assistance and advice to ensure that parties are fully aware of their rights and obligations, and an accessible and confidential mediation service for the resolution of disputes.

Disputes not resolved by this process can be referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for determination.

For more information on the dispute resolution process, visit the Victorian Small Business Commissioner website.

Code of practice

The legislation allows for industry codes of practice to be prescribed by regulation.

The Victorian Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Regulations 2006 (Victorian Regulations) came into effect on 1 December 2006. The Victorian Regulations prescribe the Code, which sets out mandatory requirements with which contractors and their hirers must comply, and provides guidance on conduct that is likely to be unconscionable and contract terms that are likely to be unjust for the purposes of the legislation.

The Code also describes industry best practice, to promote fair and equitable business relationships between contractors and their hirers. The Code addresses matters such as:

  • best practice in negotiations
  • disclosure of information
  • misleading advertising
  • allocation of work.

Email Industrial Relations Victoria, if you require a copy of the 2006 Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Code of Practice.

Page last updated: 28 February 2017