A horror three weeks of truck crashes has seen 18 people killed, including five truck drivers, despite fewer cars on the road with millions in lockdown. The TWU has demanded urgent regulation from the Federal Government to tackle deadly pressure and extreme demands in the industry.
Truck driver deaths include a 49-year-old-driver who died in a two-truck smash on the Warrego Highway in Queensland, and the death of a 56-year-old truck driver who was crushed when his truck rolled back over him. Two more were killed this week in NSW when the truck they were driving collided with a rail overpass in North Wagga.
Overall, there have been 97 truck crash deaths so far in 2021, with 27 truck drivers killed.
Trucking is Australia’s deadliest industry, with pressures of underpayments, fatigue, speeding, and overloaded trucks linked to the low-cost contracts demanded by wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of the supply chain.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said all Australians would be shocked to their core by these figures. “We extend my deepest condolences to the families of those who have died these last few weeks. Truck drivers are doing essential work in a critical industry. The country relies on them, and they deserve the right to work safely and come home to their loved ones safely”.
“But the reality is this: road safety is in a terrifying death spiral because the Federal Government and big business at the top of supply chains refuse to take responsibility. Truckies are under extreme pressure to work longer hours and take less breaks to meet unrealistic deadlines and avoid losing pay. We’re seeing the results of the deadly squeeze on our industry”.
“For truckies to drive safely, the Federal Government needs to do its job. It needs to establish an independent body which can set fair rates, safe conditions and provide protections for all drivers in our industry.
“Wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies are enjoying record profits off the back of the extreme demand they place on truckies. With no independent body in place to regulate the industry, those profits are failing to reach the workers whose jobs are under attack, like those at Toll, StarTrack and FedEx forced to pursue strike action to protect their pay and conditions.”
“Every day it refuses to act is another day the Federal Government has blood on its hands”.
Around 7,000 Toll workers are currently voting on taking strike action to protect their jobs, pay and conditions. Another 6,000 StarTrack and FedEx workers have also filed an application with the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote to strike after talks broke down over job security provisions.
Five years ago, the Federal Government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which was dedicated to investigating safety and regulating payment arrangements to reduce the financial pressure on truck drivers.
The Federal Government justified abolishing the tribunal because of its “significant cost to the economy … with any potential safety benefits significantly outweighed by the associated costs”. The tribunal’s annual funding was $4 million. Research shows heavy vehicle crashes cost $4.64 billion a year.
Since then, 205 truck drivers have been killed on the job.