Traffic was blocked on the junction of York and King Streets as over 200 protesters held crosses and placed boots on the road to highlight the deadly nature of truck driving, which has the highest workplace fatalities of any profession and among the highest suicides.
“Truck drivers have a right to be safe at work and they have a right to be paid a minimum rate for all their work. Everyone else has a right to feel safe on the road and not be at risk because of low cost contracts by wealthy clients which force drivers to speed, drive long hours, skip mandatory rest breaks and skip maintenance on their trucks. We are demanding that the Government honour these rights now,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
Over 2500 people have been killed in truck-related crashes over a decade. In April, 23 died in truck crashes; in March there were 25 deaths.
“The evidence from Safe Work Australia clearly shows the pressure drivers are under: one in three transport employers say their workers break safety rules to get the job done. Malcolm Turnbull needs no more evidence. He needs to act to make our jobs and our roads safer,” Sheldon added.
Owner driver Dave Wocjik told the protest the Government’s opposition to safe rates only benefits the big retailers. “I’m lucky enough to earn a decent rate for my work that allows me to maintain my truck and support my family, but every day I pass truckies who are tired, stressed and in rigs that are not properly maintained because of the pressure from major clients,” he said.
Last month the Federal Government abolished a system of safe rates that was holding wealthy clients such as retailers, banks, oil companies and ports to account for low cost contracts, which do not allow their goods to be delivered safely. This was despite the Government’s own reports showing a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28%.