The Transport Workers’ Union is warning not enough is being done to reduce risks to safety in trucking as the latest official data shows the increase in deaths from truck crashes continues.
The spike in deaths in NSW continues with a 92% increase in deaths from articulated trucks in the 12 months to last December, according to the Bureau for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Fatal crashes involving trucks increased nationally by 2.4%, involving 168 deaths.
“The statistics are continuing to show there is a grave problem in trucking and people are dying. Yet the Federal Government is refusing to respond. State police are being sent out to catch drivers and trucking companies over breaches but the real issue is not being tackled. Wealthy retailers and manufacturers are putting financial pressure on transport which is causing vehicles to not be maintained and drivers to be pushed to work long hours, speed and skip mandatory rest breaks. Until a system is put in place which holds them to account these deaths will continue to rise,” said TWU acting National Secretary Michael Kaine.
Thousands of defect notices have been issued as part of NSW Operation Shield. Almost 1,000 truck drivers have responded to a TWU survey, saying police operations will not fix the problems in transport and that clients need to be held accountable for the pressure they are put under. Drivers will next week hold a National Day of Action against Aldi, a retailer refusing to take responsibility for safety problems in its supply chain.
“NSW is not only the state with the largest volume of freight, it is also the state many trucks pass through from and to other states. The NSW increase in trucking deaths reveals the problems going on in the wider industry. A state and a national response in addressing the causes of these problems is vital,” said Richard Olsen TWU NSW Branch Secretary.
The Federal Government in April 2016 shut down an independent safety watchdog which was investigating risks to safety in transport and had the power to hold wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top to account for low cost contracts which put pressure on drivers and trucking operators. The Government’s own report showed the watchdog’s Orders were cutting truck crashes by 28%*.
In October, a cross-party Senate committee unanimously recommending that the Government facilitate industry talks to “establish an independent industry body which has the power to formulate, implement and enforce supply chain standards and accountability as well as sustainable, safe rates for the transport industry”.
Media Contact: Judith Crosbie 0432552895
1. Truck crash deaths statistics
Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics fatal truck crash statistics: https://bitre.gov.au/publications/ongoing/fatal_heavy_vehicle_crashes_quarterly.aspx
Safe Work workplace fatality statistics: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/statistics-and-research/statistics/fatalities/fatality-statistics-industry
2. Safe Rates
In April 2016 the Federal Government abolished a system backing safe rates that was holding wealthy clients such as retailers, banks, oil companies and ports to account for low cost contracts, which do not allow their goods to be delivered safely. This was despite the Government’s own reports showing a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28%*.
3. Evidence of pressure
A Macquarie University study in February criticised a “critical gap” since the Government abolished the regulation that the independent tribunal represented, “that can eliminate existing incentives for overly tight scheduling, unpaid work, and rates that effectively are below cost recovery”.
The study also showed that:
• One in 10 truck drivers work over 80 hours per week.
• One in six owner drivers say drivers can’t refuse an unsafe load
• 42% of owner drivers said the reason drivers do not report safety breaches was because of a fear of losing their jobs
A Safe Work Australia report in July 2015 showed:
• 31% of transport employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
• 20% of transport employers accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
• 20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.
4. Senate report on road safety
In October the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee approved a report recommending industry-led talks to set up an independent body on “supply chain standards and accountability as well as sustainable, safe rates for the transport industry: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/RoadSafety45/Report
5. Mental health & suicide
A survey released in April showed more than 22% of truck drivers said they had experienced mental health problems. A study by Deakin University showed 323 truck drivers committed suicide between 2001 and 2010. (Suicide among male road and rail drivers in Australia: a retrospective mortality study). An analysis by the Victorian coroner’s court showing truck drivers had the highest number of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.
* PricewaterhouseCoopers “Review of the Road Safety Remuneration System Final Report January 2016” (PWC Review 2016 – published by the Commonwealth Department of Employment on 1 April, 2016)
Media enquires: Judith Crosbie 0432552895