Release date: 30/12/2009

The Transport Workers Union has urged all motorists to be careful throughout the remainder of the holiday season and reminded drivers that truck movements are the same across the year, including in the holiday period. 

Transport Workers’ Union national Secretary, Tony Sheldon, today said in light of the recent tragedy at Bateman’s Bay, road users should be aware that truck drivers are under constant pressure from clients, especially the major retailers.

“Firstly, to the family of the children who have passed away, the Transport Workers Union offers its sincere condolences. Also, the truck driver who died earlier this week had a young family and what happened can only be described as a tragedy,” Mr Sheldon said.

“But without prejudging this specific incident and how or why it happened, it is a terrible reminder of the pressures truck drivers face on the roads.

“What the TWU is calling for is for Workcover to hold a full investigation into the incident. In the countless media reports into this dreadful incident, we see all parties responding with comments except for Workcover.

“This incident is not just another death on the roads - it is a death in the workplace. In the same way WorkCover rightfully investigates deaths on building sites and in factories or mines; they should be having a full investigation into every workplace death on our roads.

“This month yet another report was released, this time by Safe Work Australia, which showed that the transport and storage industry accounts for one-quarter of all Australian workplace deaths. It also said if you worked in the road freight industry, you were over 13 times more likely to be killed at work than the average employee.

“The road freight industry is hyper-competitive and the inadequate pay and conditions of truck drivers is contributing to more deaths on the road. This is a national problem which sees 287 people across Australia die each year in heavy vehicle incidents, and we need an immediate national solution.

“The Federal Government, along with some responsible road transport employers and the TWU, have been working towards a national agreement for Safe Rates and conditions in the road transport industry.

“It has been over 12 months since a Federal Government Inquiry for the National Transport Commission (NTC), criticised client pressures, low rates of pay, unpaid working times and incentive-based payment methods for creating negative economic pressure for drivers. 

“That Inquiry called for a national tribunal to mandate scheme establishing safe rates and conditions covering both employee and owner-drivers. We need to see drivers get full cost recovery so they are not forced to undertake unsafe working practices to make a living.

“We are moving towards it but this is a timely reminder of why safety in our industry is of utmost importance, and cannot be ignored any longer,” Mr Sheldon said.

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