Truck drivers are 13 times more likely to die at work than any other profession while the long hours, social isolation, time pressure and lack of job control also make it one of the unhealthiest jobs, according to the study which based its findings on compensation claims over a 12-year period.
The study, launched at Parliament House in Canberra today, also shows there are serious implications for the wider economy because of truck driver health and safety: 1 million weeks of work were lost because of injury.
“Truck drivers are being utterly failed. They are being bashed, broken and killed because of their jobs. These are alarming findings which require serious action, not platitudes, voluntary codes or misguided regulation which don’t tackle the real cause of the problems: the economics of the industry. When wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top of the transport supply chain continually demand low cost contracts this results in financial pressure on transport operators and drivers. In this climate transport operators are not able to maintain their trucks and drivers are forced to work chronically fatigued and stressed out for long hours away from their families. They are constantly under pressure which results in crashes, deadly incidents at yards and poor mental health,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“We are demanding that the Federal Government addresses the causes behind the problems highlighted in this report. Wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top must be held to account for their low cost contracts. Pressure must be taken off transport so that drivers can go to work and be safe and healthy,” he added.
“It is vital we tackle this problem since freight demand is expected to double. Truck driving is the most common occupation among working men, employing 200,000 truck drivers in Australia,” Kaine added.
Truck driver Tony Matthews said many of his friends suffer from chronic health problems, directly related to the stress of the job. “The health and safety problems for truck drivers aren’t changing. Strains, tears, injuries in the yard have become part of the job and they are linked to the pressure drivers are under to get the job done while putting food on the table. We need a system to make our jobs and roads safer,” he said.
In April 2016 the Federal Government abolished a system backing safe rates that was holding wealthy companies to account for low cost contracts, which do not allow their goods to be delivered safely. This was despite the Government’s own report showing a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28%*.
Since the tribunal was torn down 416 people have died in truck crashes. This includes the horror truck crash in Western Australia two days ago in which a young mother and her 10-year-old son were killed and an elderly woman killed in a NSW crash yesterday involving a garbage truck.
The study shows there were 545 compensated fatalities among truck drivers over a 12 year period. This is 13 times higher than the figure for all other workers. Three out of four truck driver deaths are due to vehicle crashes. But they are also dying from ‘being hit or hitting objects’ and ‘falls, trips and slips”.
The study also shows:
- Work-related injuries and diseases resulted in over 120,000 accepted compensation claims between 2004-2015. This amounted to over 1 million lost weeks of work.
- 17% of this working time loss was due to vehicle crashes. The remaining 83% of these weeks lost were due to other causes such as slips and trips, falls, noise, physical and psychological stress.
- Musculosketal injuries and fractures made up the vast bulk of accepted claims
- But mental health is a major factor when the amount of time needed off is taken into consideration: half of drivers with mental health conditions were off work for 10 weeks or longer
The study shows risk factors for truck drivers: “Long‐haul truck drivers may be exposed to multiple risk factors in their workplace including long working hours, sedentary roles, poor nutrition, social isolation, shift work, time pressure, low levels of job control, and fatigue.”
It adds: “Truck drivers are exposed to a variety of occupational stressors such as constant time pressures, social isolation, disrespectful treatment from others, driving hazards and violence or fear of violence.”