TWU WARNING TO GOVERNMENT & INDUSTRY: TACKLE PRESSURE ON TRUCK DRIVERS OR SEE DEATHS CONTINUE TO RISE

Sep 11, 2017

TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 11 September 2017

The Federal Government and transport employer groups are continuing to ignore the pressure on truck drivers which is causing a surge in deaths from truck crashes, despite a media investigation highlighting the problem, the TWU has warned.

In response to the investigation Minister for Transport Darren Chester listed road building and research projects – none of which will tackle the pressures on truck drivers to drive long hours, speed and skip mandatory rest breaks.

Both the Minister and the Australian Trucking Association have also cited funding for the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator – which is being used for extra speeding cameras designed to catch and fine truck drivers rather than address the pressure in the industry to break the rules. They both refer to chain of responsibility laws which are not designed to prevent safety risks and which have failed miserably to hold those responsible to account.

“The Government and the industry associations have their heads firmly in the sand over the crisis in trucking. They are happy to pile all the blame on truck drivers for what is happening instead of forcing those with the power to take responsibility: the wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top of the supply chain. The evidence is there to show why deaths from truck crashes are increasing. The Government and industry groups need to support a meaningful solution,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

“Families and communities are being left devastated because of truck crashes. Truck drivers have Australia’s deadliest job. The urgency to tackle this crisis is real yet the Government continues to do nothing and industry groups stand in the way of a solution,” he added.

The Federal Government and industry groups shut down the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal last year, which was investigating safety in trucking. The tribunal in a world first was holding wealthy clients at the top to account for low cost contracts that are financially squeezing the industry.

Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks have increased by over 7% this year, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Safe Work Australia data shows that 40% of all workplace deaths involved transport workers. This is up from one in three transport workers last year and one in four in 2015.

A media investigation has linked the increase in truck crash deaths to the pressure drivers are under to take risks to get the job done. It highlights a litany of failings in the industry, including vehicles overloaded, vehicles not maintained properly, long driving hours, speeding and driving schools giving licences without adequate training.

Thousands of truck drivers around the country have held several major protests over deadly pressure in the industry. Two weeks ago 500 drivers protested at an Aldi store in western Sydney over the wealthy retailer’s failure to discuss ways to improve safety. Protests have also been held at Aldi operations in Fremantle and Adelaide. Aldi has taken Federal Court action to try to stop truck drivers protesting against them and to restrict social media and other communications revealing safety and pay in their supply chains.

Jasmine Payget, whose six-year-old son Rian was killed in a truck crash, said change was vital. “The government just needs to do its job. Last year the Federal Government abolished a tribunal which made legal rules to ensure more safety on the roads. They have replaced it with nothing.  is there any wonder that deaths and injuries are increasing? I am a mum who was going away for the weekend with her family. I have a right to roads that are safe. Truck drivers have families and they have the right to come home safely,” she said.

© 2016 Transport Workers' Union of Australia.
Authorised by Tony Sheldon, TWU National Secretary, 388-390 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia.