Release date: 30/09/2010

Two new reports on safety in heavy vehicle transport sector have shown that we are still a long way from improving conditions in the industry.

 The preliminary findings of a new study funded by NSW WorkCover has shown that truck drivers are under more pressure than ever and frequently forced to break driving regulations in order to make a living.

The study due for release later this year, was conducted by University of New South Wales’ Professor Ann Williamson and Rena Friswell, (NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre) showed that many drivers were forced to work in a way that was not safe.

Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, said another report released last week by The NSW Government’s Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety showed that although heavy vehicles “comprise around 2.1% of registered vehicles and account for 8.6% of all kilometres travelled. They are, however, involved in more than 21% of all fatal crashes.”

“Anne Williamson’s study shows that drivers on long haul are working an average of 68 hours a week while a almost a third are breaking all driving laws and doing more than 72 hours a week,” TWU national secretary, Tony Sheldon said.

“We also have only 25 per cent of drivers paid of waiting times, and almost 60 per cent of drivers surveyed are not paid for loading or unloading. This pressure adds up and that is why we are seeing 60 per cent of drivers admit to “nodding off” at the wheel over the last 12 months.

“Truck drivers have no guarantee of full-cost recovery as it is. We need a system of safe rates across the country, where drivers can get all costs back for rising charges and fluctuating fuel prices, otherwise we are going to see rising economic pressure cause further unsafe practices,” Mr Sheldon said.

The NSW Government’s Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety’s Report on Heavy Vehicle Safety, has acknowledged that economic pressures effects heavy vehicle safety, saying: “the question of adequate remuneration does raise workforce and safety issues which are of direct concern”.

The committee also recommended “the development of a system to provide a transparent and effective safety rating to trucking companies, whereby their operation and performance can be easily assessed and compared against established safety criteria”.

Mr Sheldon said the two reports showed that if wages and conditions in the sector are not changed for the better, the industry would be facing serious recruitment problems as the freight task doubles over the next decade.

“One major concern for the industry was that the average age of drivers surveyed was over 45 years of age, showing there is an ageing workforce on our hands,” Mr Sheldon said.

“As these people retire, companies do need to look at recruitment for the future and the up-training of younger drivers – but it is hard to attract people to the job if there is little financial rewards.

“Lifestyle and family life is also adversely affected. The results also showed that work often interfered with family life and we can’t possibly recruit young drivers into the profession if I ads to family pressures, usually through economic situations,” Mr Sheldon said.

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