Police inspected 5,000 trucks in an operation that also involved Victorian, Queensland, SA and ACT police forces checking trucks entering and leaving NSW. Police also revealed 26 drivers tested positive for drugs while RMS inspectors found one driver working in excess of the 12-hour limit who was “almost asleep at the wheel”.
“Truck drivers yesterday were made to carry the burden for an industry in crisis. They’ve yet again copped the fines and carried the charges. But wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top are the ones who should be in the dock: their low cost contracts are putting financial pressure on transport companies and drivers which causes maintenance on trucks to get delayed. Drivers are pushed to work longer hours, speed and skip breaks,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
“The Federal Government must take responsibility for driving down standards in the transport industry and increasing the death toll. It shut down a road safety watchdog two years ago and now we are seeing defective trucks on our roads and deaths sky-rocket. The Government did this despite repeated warnings and its own report showing the watchdog was cutting truck crashes by 28%*,” 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.
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”.