Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon used his speech to the Freight Outlook Seminar at the Carlton Brewhouse in Melbourne on press day (November 9) to highlight problems caused by the lack of training.
Sheldon said truck driving was omitted from the temporary work 457 visa programbut a federal senate inquiry into aspects of road safety revealed bogus driving schools are handing out heavy vehicles licences to migrant workers despite having no training or experience.
Sheldon said after the senate inquiry wrote to Queensland's Department of Transport (DOT) this year over "bogus" licences, 80 people had their truck driving tickets cancelled.
He said it was "a joke" that only one trainer at a school was given a 12-month suspension following the DOT investigation.
Sheldon said the problem was creating "havoc" on our roads, giving one example where a driver on a temporary work visa held up traffic for hours after he couldn't unhitch or back his oversized truck out of the Sydney airport tunnel.
He said people should not be allowed to drive trucks because of loopholes in the visa system and poor licensing standards.
Amount of pressure on trucking companies 'frightening'
Sheldon said a trucking industry ideology where it is ok for those at the top to make healthy profits while bankruptcies, suicides, workplace deaths and exploitation plague the rest of the industry had to stop.
He said each year retailers, manufacturers, oil companies, banks, and ports demand contractors deliver their goods for less.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission data showed transport operators have one of the highest rates of insolvencies, Sheldon said. He said it was "frightening" that transport companies are under this much financial pressure with the obvious knock-on effects to driver safety.
In July 2015, Safe Work Australia research findings showed almost 20% of transport employers break safety rules to meet deadlines compared to 6% of employers in other industries, he said.
Sheldon said truck drivers represented the highest number of deaths on the job and had high levels of suicide.
Bring back the Road Safety Tribunal
Sheldon said the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) had been delivering the solution to the trucking industry "crisis" before it was disbanded.
He said "the RSRT was a world first in holding clients at the top of a supply chain to account for what went on throughout (the chain).
"It represented hope to employee drivers, owner drivers and transport companies forced to subsist on meagre margins because of low cost contracts," Sheldon said.
Sustainable fair pay rates for employees and owner drivers and identifying and enforcing those rates was critical to improving the industry, he said.
On November 5, 2016, ex-president of the RSRT FWC Deputy President Jennifer Acton told the Australian Labour Law Association conference much of the confusion and uncertainty that killed off the tribunal had been "manufactured by others" (WF 7/11/2016).
*** **** ***