The testimony from owner drivers was shut down during the opening session of an inquiry by the Ombudsman in Adelaide into the impact of an Order setting safe minimum rates, designed to tackle road deaths linked to pressure on drivers to speed, drive long hours and skip mandatory rest breaks. Testimony from employers’ groups was heard in full.
The Ombudsman Kate Carnell has opposed safe rates and has said she wants to ensure they never return.
“This inquiry is bogus and the sessions being organised around the country just ahead of July 2nd is purely electioneering. If the supposedly independent Ombudsman is really concerned about the trucking community she would investigate the deaths of truck drivers which have the highest fatality rates of any profession. She would investigate the high rate of bankruptcies among owner drivers and small transport operators. Instead she is doing the Government’s bidding by whipping up fear about drivers being given a minimum safe rates, protections for whistleblowers raising safety concerns and 30-day maximum payment periods for drivers,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
Roy Ballantyne, an owner driver for over 40 years, attended the inquiry. “I got safe rates for just two weeks and it was my first rate increase in decades. Now I’m back to struggling on tight margins. I’m annoyed that anyone representing small businesses would oppose fair safe rates. The Ombudsman closed me down from giving evidence on safe rates but then let employers of owner drivers have a free hand,” he said.
Sue Posnakidis, whose brother John was killed in 2010 after an inexperienced, fatigued driver with faulty truck brakes crashed into him, also attended the inquiry in Adelaide this morning. “It was clear the Ombudsman was not concerned with safety on the road. But our drivers need to be safe and road safety needs to be a priority,” she said.
In May 17 people died in truck crashes; in April there were 24 deaths; in March there were 25 deaths. The Government’s own reports on the Safe Rates system released recently show that road transport has the “highest fatality rates of any industry in Australia” with 12 times the average for all industries. The reports also show the system would reduce truck crashes by 28%.
See the TWU letter here handed in today to Kate Carnell, Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman: