Five people, including three truck drivers, have been killed in three separate truck crashes in NSW, one yesterday in Dubbo in which two people were killed after a truck hit their car while waiting at roadworks and another which caused the M1 to be closed for over 15 hours.
The Fair Work Ombudsman today announced that SA based transport operator Atkins Freight has been forced to pay $468,000 in backpay and fines to 10 of its drivers.
“The Federal Government has blood on its hands over these deaths. It was warned repeatedly not to shut down an independent road safety watchdog because deaths on the roads would increase. Its own report on the tribunal showed its Orders were cutting trucks crashes by 28%. Families and communities are being torn apart while all we get from the Government is silence,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
Official statistics show a 9.4% increase in deaths from truck crashes nationally. The figured for NSW spiked significantly with an 86% jump in deaths from articulated trucks. New Safe Work Australia data for 2017 showed almost 40% of all workplace deaths involved a transport worker. Despite overall workplace deaths decreasing last year, the number of transport workers killed on the job jumped to 66, up from 57 in 2016.
“The wage theft case shows what drivers face – they are under pressure to speed and drive grueling hours to meet unrealistic deadlines and all the while they are being ripped off their wages. There is a crisis in transport that is being caused right at the top of the supply chain – by the wealthy retailers and manufacturers financially squeezing operators and drivers. The Federal Government is standing by and letting this and the deaths happen. This crisis reflects a total failure of the federal administration,” said Sheldon.
Numerous academic studies and coronial inquiries have established the lethal dynamic between pay and safety on the roads and the need for a safe rates system. A report by the National Transport Commission states: “There is solid survey evidence linking payment levels and systems to crashes, speeding, driving while fatigued and drug use”.
In October, a cross-party Senate committee approved a report recommending that the Government facilitate industry talks to “establish an independent industry body which has the power to formulate, implement and enforce supply chain standards and accountability as well as sustainable, safe rates for the transport industry”.
“The trucking community, including the Australian Trucking Association, must come on board and back a sustainable solution to the crisis in trucking. Band-aid solutions will not stop truck drivers and other road users from being slaughtered,” Sheldon added.