Owner-driver Frank Black says drivers need to know they don't have to cut corners on safety.
In a ruling hailed by unions as a "world first", the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has approved national minimum payments for long-distance drivers and those involved in the distribution of goods destined for sale or hire by supermarket chains.
Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said the ruling would ensure drivers were paid for loading and unloading times, as well as when they cleaned, inspected, serviced and repaired their trucks and trailers.
The order imposes requirements on the hirers of contractor drivers and participants in the supply chain, potentially subjecting them to annual audits.
Mr Sheldon said the decision would ensure retailers and manufacturers that used transport operators would be held to account for pressure on drivers.
"Low-cost contracts from wealthy retailers and manufacturers mean trucks are not maintained properly and drivers are under pressure to meet unrealistic deadlines, to speed, drive for longer than is allowed, to overload their trucks and skip rest periods," he said.
"This ruling is a world first. We now have a binding, legally enforceable decision which makes those at the top of the supply chain accountable for the practices throughout.
"Wealthy retailers from now on will have to examine their transport contracts and question whether they comply with this ruling."
But Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said employers were very concerned that the order would impose new costs and supply-chain obligations.
"The order is anti-competitive and there was plenty of evidence put before the tribunal that the order would threaten the viability of many road transport businesses," Mr Willox said on Sunday.
"The focus needs to be on measures that are widely recognised as improving road safety, such as risk identification and control, improved roads, fatigue management and better education and training, not on imposing anti-competitive arrangements on industry."
Owner-driver Frank Black said on Sunday the order would make employers more accountable.
"Drivers need to know they can feed their family and pay bills," he said. "They need to know they don't have to cut corners on safety. This is a big step to achieving that."
Mr Black was speaking from a petrol station in the Melbourne suburb of Laverton. His truck had broken down and he had spent $7000 on repairs.
In its decision, the tribunal said while it could not be shown that low rates of pay and methods of payments directly caused truck crashes, "it can be shown that low rates of pay and performance-based payment systems do create an incentive for, or encourage, other on-road behaviours which lead to poor safety outcomes".
Before the 2013 federal election, the Coalition promised to "urgently review" the tribunal. However, in government it has refused to state its position on the tribunal's future.