February 3, 2017

Report Reveals Overworked Truck Drivers Fear Raising Safety Concerns

The report criticises a lack of training and a “critical gap” since the Government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal “that can eliminate existing incentives for overly tight scheduling, unpaid work, and rates that effectively are below cost recovery”.


The report was launched today at a Safety Summit organised by the Transport Workers’ Union bringing together truck drivers, industry, academics and politicians to devise a plan to deal with the crisis in trucking.


“This report showcases a supply chain which puts all the pressure on drivers at the bottom and none of the accountability on the top, the wealthy retailers and manufacturers. It shows how this supply chain pits transport operators, which prioritise safety and employ experienced, trained drivers, against operators which cut corners and force drivers to take risks,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.


A survey of truck drivers, which forms part of the report shows:


  • over 80% of truck drivers work more than 50 hours a week; 10% work over 80 hours
  • one in six drivers who own their own trucks do not believe they can refuse an unsafe load
  • Almost one in five owner drivers said they would not report being pressured to falsify a work diary; 42% of owner drivers said the reason drivers do not report safety breaches was because of a fear of losing their jobs


Dr Sharron O’Neill of UNSW, co-author of the report, said: “This research shows there are safe and unsafe workplaces in the transport industry and highlights how and why they coexist. The study takes a big picture look at the complex web of risk factors driving the unacceptably high rate of fatality and injury to road transport workers. It also highlights the very different degrees to which drivers experience safety at work.”


Prof Louise Thornthwaite of Macquarie University said: “The research highlights a complex mix of regulation. It points to the importance of increasing enforcement and sanctions, particularly to ensure safety for those at the bottom of the supply chain including employees, owner drivers and others. This study highlights a “blame the victim” culture, and calls for those at the top of the chain of responsibility to be held accountable for safety.”


Truck driver Frank Black said rates and payment times have slipped since the Government abolished the tribunal last April, making the job even more dangerous. “Things are going backwards and the pressure on drivers is growing. The Government can’t be surprised at the high number of deaths and injuries on the roads,” he said.


“Safe Work Australia showed that last year one out of every three workplace deaths involved a transport worker – now we know why. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has to take responsibility for contributing to this situation when he tore down the tribunal and turned his back on a solution to this crisis,” said Sheldon.


Reports released by the Federal Government last April acknowledged the link between safety and the pay rates of drivers. One report also showed a system of safe rates, where drivers are paid minimum rates for all their work, would cut truck crashes by 28%*.


In the 10 years to 2014 over 2,500 truck drivers and other road users died in truck crashes.

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