The TWU has warned that unless government action on the hike in fuel is targeted at supporting owner drivers and transport operators on razor-thin margins, the economic crisis at the bottom of supply chains will result in more trucking deaths.
In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the TWU has outlined that an absence of regulation to ensure rising operational costs are absorbed by wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of supply chains means the Federal Government must step in to prevent owner-operators from going under or being forced to take deadly shortcuts to make ends meet.
Whether through cuts to the fuel excise, or a subsidy scheme for struggling transport businesses, the Federal Government must map and track exactly how assistance will ease the existential threat to businesses and deadly pressures on drivers.
The Without Trucks Australia Stops Senate Report tabled in August 2021 recommended the Federal Government establish an independent body to set binding standards in trucking, such as cost recovery. Over six months later, the Morrison Government has failed to enact the recommendations.
The squeeze on transport contracts from the top of supply chains pressures operators and drivers to delay maintenance, speed, overload trucks and drive fatigued. The pandemic, flooding and now rising fuel costs have exacerbated the deadly pressures on truck drivers.
Since the Senate Report was tabled, 35 truck drivers have been killed, 13 so far in 2022.
TWU Assistant National Secretary Nick McIntosh said the fuel crisis must be addressed through deliberate, targeted support for those who need it most – truck drivers and transport operators battling to maintain safe, viable businesses.
“The cost of fuel won’t hit consumers like it will hit truck drivers struggling to stay afloat. Since the Coalition Government tore down a road safety watchdog in 2016 and put nothing else in its place, owner0drivers and small operators on razor-thin margins have been forced to bear the brunt of rising operational costs, posing an existential threat to many small businesses.
“Under the Morrison Government, there is a deliberate absence of regulation to ensure wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of transport supply chains are accountable for safe conditions and appropriate cost recovery. Owner-drivers and operators have to find ways to keep the wheels turning, and that can mean taking deadly risks like delaying maintenance on trucks, overloading, or driving fatigued. In Australia’s deadliest industry, Government inaction is literally killing people on our roads.
“It is clear that Morrison must address the fuel hike. While pressure will be coming from all sides it is crucial that truck driver safety and the viability of transport businesses this country relies on are front and centre of any financial assistance. We don’t need a pre-election PR stunt, we need protection for essential transport businesses and to save lives on our roads,” he said.
The TWU has also slammed the recently announced Road and Rail Supply Chain Review as farcical for deliberately putting the transport workforce “out of scope”. The TWU has 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.