A spate of crashes involving trucks this week has killed nine people, including one truck driver, with the Transport Workers’ Union saying the horror week points to the urgent need for Federal regulation to lift standards and tackle deadly pressures in the industry.
The deaths include a truck driver killed after a devastating semi-trailer rollover on the Calder Highway in Victoria, two occupants killed when a truck collided with an ambulance in Queensland, three motorists involved in a multi-vehicle car crash on the Gold Coast, and a motorist killed in a 10-vehicle crash involving three trucks on the Hume Highway south of Sydney.
Overall, there have been 118 truck crash deaths so far in 2021, with 39 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.
A growing insecure work crisis is making the industry more dangerous, with work being outsourced to lower cost contracts and good, decent transport jobs smashed. Workers at Toll, StarTrack and FedEx have all taken industrial action in recent weeks to fight back against rampant outsourcing they say will make the industry even more deadly.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said urgent intervention was the only way to end the devastating death spiral.
“Every life lost in truck-related crashes is a tragedy. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those lost in this horror week.
“The reality is that trucking is being crushed by a double whammy of deadly pressure from companies at the top of supply chains, and growing insecure work which forces drivers to work longer hours, drive fatigued and take more risks to get ahead. It’s an industry being crushed by corporate greed and sliding standards, and we have seen the devastating impacts this week.”
The TWU has demanded the Federal Government urgently implement the recommendations of a landmark Senate report, which calls for an independent body to create and enforce minimum standards, to address the growing crisis.
“The Federal Government can’t just look the other way and pretend the blood bath on Australian road isn’t happening. Implementing the Senate’s recommendations will address the deadly economic and social pressures killing truck drivers and motorists at horrifyingly high rates”, Kaine added.
A recent TWU survey of over 1,100 truck drivers revealed nearly half of all truck drivers knew a driver killed at work and one in four were involved in a serious crash. One in four had also been pressured by their employers to work beyond legal hours and skip rest breaks, and one in five were pressured by employers to speed to meet deadlines.
Since the Federal LNP Government tore down the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in 2016, which was dedicated to investigating safety and regulating payment arrangements to reduce financial pressures on truck drivers, 217 truck drivers have been killed on the job.