What Happens When There Is No Work For That Extra Truck?

Release date: 2/04/2015

Owner-drivers often call for advice about problems with a variation to an existing arrangement between them and a hirer.

TWU WA BRANCH NEWS, 31 March 2015

It generally goes like this: The owner driver is approached by the hirer to take on more work, which the owner driver agrees to do, seeing this as an opportunity to expand their business.

However, to take on that additional work the owner-driver invests in another truck, usually on a promise of plenty of long-term work for the additional truck.

However, sometime later, the situation changes.The hirer advises the owner driver that there is no more work for the extra truck.

Or, the work for the new truck drops off significantly, for some reason.

For example, a new manger is appointed which changes the way that work is allocated.

Having invested a significant amount of money in a new truck the owner-driver is very unhappy with the changes.

And having the truck, working considerably less than expected, places a financial strain on the owner-driver.

Which raises the question, can something be done about this. For example, taking the hirer to court to recover the owner-drivers losses.

Unfortunately, in most cases there will be very little that the owner-driver can actually do in such a situation.

The owner-driver often finds it difficult to prove the promises made by the hirer about the work for the new truck.

Usually, the promises will be made verbally, and there will rarely be anything in writing about this.

Sometimes the hirer will give a letter to the owner-driver that he can give to the finance company to get a loan for the new truck.

However, those letters are written in very general terms and they will usually not stand up in court as “proof”about the level of promised work for the additional truck.

The problem can be even greater where there is a written contract.

These will usually include a clause to the effect that any variation to the contract must be in writing and signed by both parties.

In those circumstances a verbal variation to the contract will carry little, if any, weight.

Written contracts often state that the hirer does not guarantee any minimum level of work or income. The hirer will rely on that clause in support of its argument that it did not give guarantees about the work that would be available if the owner-driver got another truck.

And owner-driver contracts can be terminated by the hirer at any time by giving notice to the owner-driver. In the case of written contracts the period of notice will be specified.

Where there is no written contract, or no provision about notice in the contract, then the hirer has to give “reasonable notice”.

The actual amount of notice will depend on the circumstances of each case, and can be anything from a few weeks to about two months.

Regardless of any promises made by the hirer about the work for any new truck the hirer can give the owner-driver notice, at any time, that the arrangement between them is at an end.

The end result is that the owner-driver is left with a truck they have no work for

The assurances from the hirer on which the owner-driver based the decision to buy the truck will usually not be worth anything in that situation.

If it could be shown that the promises about the work were made as inducement to the owner-driver to get another truck, then it may be possible to pursue a claim for misleading and deceptive conduct. However, this can be a long and expensive process.

All variations to the arrangements between owner-drivers and hirers should be documented if possible.Especially for important matters, such as the rate that will be paid for the work.

At the very least, you should send an email to the hirer setting out clearly your understanding as to what was agreed. And request a written confirmation of this from the hirer.

That email and the hirer’s response would be very valuable if a dispute arose later on about that variation.

Remember document everything and do not place too much reliance on verbal promises.

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