Release date: 12/07/2010

With yet another report confirming that economic factors has a direct impact on the massive death toll in the road transport industry, drivers are calling for the urgent implementation of Safe Rates across Australia.

Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, said there is often no recourse over conditions or rates of pay, and far too often, the only control over the situation a truck driver has is to make up time and their rate of pay is through unsafe practices.

“The NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre has said that crash rates are up by 25 per cent, and it has also confirmed the industry is ‘driven by incentives and continuous pressure that require them to drive faster’,” Mr Sheldon said.

“In a report published this morning, an RTA Survey found that the rate of speeding trucks had increased by 35 per cent over a 10 year period, showing that economic pressures on drivers has increased.

“Since 1989 there have been 3835 deaths in the road transport industry and according to the NRMA, over 300 people have been killed every year. The situation on our roads is dire and we need to come to a resolution on Safe Rates as a matter of urgency,” Mr Sheldon said.

Just last month, Prime Minister, Julia Gillard met with the Safe Rates Advisory Group and said “The issue of concern is that current pay and conditions methods can result in drivers working excessive hours to meet schedules, overloading their trucks and cutting back on vehicle maintenance … There is clearly a compelling case evolving for an independent assessment of what constitutes a ‘safe rate’ for the transport industry”.

Mr Sheldon said that “an independent tribunal would allow drivers and companies to come together for conciliation and to get a ruling, and if that tribunal was industry specific and includes client accountability, the outcomes would see large improvements in safety and the way the industry is run”.

In 2008, the National Transport Commission prepared a report with the assistance of transport safety expert Professor Michael Quinlan and Lance Wright QC, the former president of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

The Quinlan/Wright report concluded that:

‘Economic factors create an incentive for truck drivers to drive fast, work long hours and use illicit substances to stay awake. These economic factors include:

•    low rates of pay;
•    incentive based payment methods (such as per kilometre or per trip);
•    unpaid working time;
•    Other factors include the hyper-competitive nature of the industry and the low bargaining power faced by drivers.’

Just last Friday, industry news reported that
A study by a team of academics in the US led by Professor Michael Belzer found the probability of a truck crash fell by 36 percent for every 10 percent increase in wages.[1]

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