United Nations Body Backs Australian Model To Tackle Crisis In Trucking

TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 19 October 2015

Employers, governments and employee groups at the United Nations labour body have backed a plan based on the Australian Safe Rates model to tackle the root causes of the high global death toll in trucking.

The plan includes developing a code of practice which will focus on safe and fair pay rates for transport workers as a way to protect them and other road users from death and injury.

Employers, governments and employee groups also agreed to use Australia’s Safe Rates model as a guide to developing an international code.

“This is a huge boast for our system in Australia which links the rates drivers are paid to safety on the roads. It means that employers and governments around the world have committed to promoting safe rates of pay as a way to tackle road safety,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon who attended the meeting in Geneva.

“Other countries have now recognised that pressures on drivers lead directly to the carnage on our roads. This is about holding those accountable at the top of the transport chain – the wealthy retailers and manufacturers – for the deadly effects of low cost contracts. No more should the trucking and wider communities have to bear this brunt,” he added.

A resolution passed by the International Labour Organization on the issue also recognises the need for “fair and safe remuneration systems” and highlights that road transport workers in freight and passenger transport have “some of the highest injury and fatality rates”. It states that the “multiple supply and contracting chains” in the road transport industry “often lead to pressures on margins that can leave transport workers unable to exercise their fundamental principles and rights at work”.

Trucking is Australia’s deadliest profession with drivers 15 times more likely to die than any profession. Around 330 people die each year in truck-related crashes. But there are similar problems abroad. In 10 countries surveyed across Asia, Europe and the Americas there were 327,497 people injured and 2,034 killed in 2008.

“The pressures to skip breaks, overload vehicles, speed and drive for longer than is legal are problems for drivers all over the world. We need a global effort to tackle these problems and stop the carnage. We now have the green light to do this,” said Sheldon.

The TWU action comes on the two year anniversary of a deadly crash at Mona Vale in NSW in 2013 when two people were killed after an oil tanker burst into flames. The brakes on the tanker were found to be faulty and a national audit of Cootes, the company which owned the truck, found hundreds of defects prompting the fleet to be grounded. The head of compliance operations at the RMS said afterwards that because of “tight margins … the company's probably been worn down to the bone”.


1. Evidence of link between safety and pay rates

Numerous academic studies have established the link between safety and rates of pay including the National Transport Commission’s report on Remuneration and Safety in the Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry (2008) which said practices by the retail industry affecting road transport “can play a direct and significant role in causing hazardous practices”. It adds: “There is solid survey evidence linking payment levels and systems to crashes, speeding, driving while fatigued and drug use”.


2. Evidence of pressure

A Safe Work Australia report in July showed

  • 31% of employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
  • 20% 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.


3. Why wealthy retailers are the problem

The Wesfarmers/Coles annual results in August showed

  • Wesfarmers profits increased by over 60% to $2.44 billion
  • Coles’ revenues were up 2% to $38 billion
  • Freight costs down by $13 million at a time when revenue growth is up 3.8%.


4. Low pay among drivers

  • 29% of owner drivers are underpaid in the current remuneration system
  • $29,000 average owner driver income
(Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011, Regulation Impact Statement)


5. What is the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal

The RSRT has the power to inquire into practices in the road transport industry, including holding major clients like Coles to account for how their business practices affect safety throughout the supply chain

  • It began operating in July 2012
  • The RSRT is able to make orders on:
  • Minimum remuneration for employee drivers and owner-drivers
  • Industry practices for loading and unloading vehicles, waiting times, working hours, load limits, payment methods and payment periods
  • Ways of reducing or removing remuneration-related incentives, pressures and practices that contribute to unsafe work practice
  • So far it has begun inquiries into five sectors: retail and long distance; oil, fuel and gas; cash-in-transit; waste; and port and wharf sector.
  • It has made an important order requiring truck drivers to be paid within 30 days and has issued a draft ruling setting down minimum safe rates for drivers in retails and long-distance

6. Information on ILO meeting in Geneva


7. ILO Resolution Concerning Best Practices in Road Transport Safety 

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