The investigation links the increase in truck crash deaths to the pressure drivers are under to take risks to get the job done. It highlights a litany of failings in the industry, including vehicles overloaded, vehicles not maintained properly, long driving hours, speeding and driving schools giving licences without adequate training. One driver was sacked for raising safety concerns about having his vehicle overloaded. Another driver was forced to drive long hours which were not recorded in his logbook. He too was eventually sacked. Chain of responsibility laws “have proved too prescriptive and easy to avoid for large companies”, the investigation adds.
“The Federal Government cannot ignore the role it has played in making our roads less safe to travel on. What has been exposed today is something the Government has been warned about repeatedly and yet chose to make worse. It tore down the independent Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal investigating the very problems raised. The Government’s own report showed this tribunal was cutting truck crash deaths by 28%*. All road users are now paying the price for this,” TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said.
Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks has increased by over 7% this year, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Safe Work Australia data shows that 40% of all workplace deaths involved transport workers. This is up from one in three transport workers last year and one in four in 2015.
“The Government let the wealthy retailers and manufacturers off the hook by closing down the tribunal. These wealthy clients through their low cost contracts are putting financial pressure on transport companies and kick-starting the deadly cycle which results in deaths on our roads. Without tackling the source of the problem we can expect deaths to continue to increase,” Sheldon added.
Thousands of truck drivers around the country have held several major protests over deadly pressure in the industry. Two weeks ago 500 drivers protested at an Aldi store in western Sydney over the wealthy retailer’s failure to discuss ways to improve safety. Protests have also been held in Fremantle and Adelaide. Aldi has taken Federal Court action to try to stop truck drivers protesting against them and to restrict social media and other communications revealing safety and pay in their supply chains.
Truck driver Frank Black says drivers are angry about the Government’s inaction on holding clients to account. “Drivers see the pressure in increasing and things getting worse. Truck drivers are dying and other road users are dying yet nothing is done,” he said.
Statement from Jasmine Payget, whose six-year-old son Rian was killed in a truck crash: “The government just needs to do its job. Last year the Federal Government abolished a tribunal which made legal rules to ensure more safety on the roads. They have replaced it with nothing. is there any wonder that deaths and injuries are increasing?
Politicians say that safe roads are their highest priority. Both Federal and state politicians have the power to make safety the first priority in contracts, for company directors, for businesses who transport goods around the country. They could all work together and make it happen.
Chain of Responsibility legislations around the country are a joke. If the governments were doing their jobs, they would make sure that that those who break the laws are punished in a way that make a safer industry.
I am a Mum who was going away for the weekend with her family. I have a right to roads that safe. Truck drivers have family and they have the right to come home safely.
Our family around Australia want to see truck drivers able to do their jobs without being put under pressure to take safety risks on the roads. We want to stop further crashes that cause the heartache we know so very well.
We want a better world that as SARAH says "no person be placed in harm’s way simply because of poor policy, poor planning, poor maintenance or poor procedures”. Really it is about putting people first – road users, the drivers, the families. Otherwise we have a paid a terrible price for cheap goods and private profit. The bottom line should be safety!
SARAH is Safer Australian Roads and Highways www.sarahgroup.org