The Transport Workers’ Union says any fuel relief must put money directly into truckies’ pockets to avoid sending owner drivers broke or increasing deadly truck crashes on our roads, following reports the Treasurer will announce a fuel package as part of next week’s Federal Budget.
Owner drivers and small fleet operators run on razor thin margins as a result of low-cost transport contracts demanded by wealthy supermarkets, retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of supply chains. Even small increases in operating costs caused by rising fuel prices can mean the difference between truckies earning enough money to put food on the table and going out of business.
The Prime Minister last week received a letter from the TWU demanding the Federal Government provide immediate financial support to truck drivers to combat rising fuel prices. Scott Morrison has yet to acknowledge – let alone act on – truckies’ very legitimate concerns.
The financial squeeze in road transport caused by small margins and rising costs only incentivises risky behaviour, with drivers more likely to drive fatigued, overload or cut corners on safety and maintenance to make ends meet. In 2022 alone, 40 people have died in truck-involved crashes – including 14 truck drivers.
TWU National Assistant Secretary Nick McIntosh warned that unless the Prime Minister listened to owner drivers and small fleet operators, national supply chains could grind to a halt.
“Any steps taken to bring down the extraordinary cost of fuel are welcome, but not if they excludes the hardworking men and women who have kept supply chains moving through covid, bushfires and dangerous flooding.
“It’s hard enough to be an owner driver or small fleet operator when wealthy companies at the top are squeezing transport to keep costs low, and gig companies like Amazon are dangerously undercutting the industry. Adding astronomical fuel costs to the mix only makes our Australia’s deadliest more dangerous. Truckies shouldn’t have to park up or put themselves in harm’s way because they simply can’t afford to make a decent living.
“Scott Morrison must immediately commit to providing targeted financial support directly to drivers as a national priority. Every day this problem drags on without resolution is another day owner drivers lose money, go out of business or take unnecessary risks.
“These measures wouldn’t be necessary if Scott Morrison just did his job and established an independent body with the power to set enforceable standards in transport, including effective cost recovery from wealthy companies at the top of supply chains. This regulation was recommended by the Senate over six months ago, and yet the Prime Minister has refused to act. Only by establishing such a body would drivers have an industrial system which eases short-term price pressures and ends the longer-term financial squeeze making road transport so deadly”, McIntosh said.
The TWU has also been calling on the Federal Government to sign up to a set of supply chain principles to protect essential industries against external shocks like covid variants, flooding and global supply chain disruption.