DRIVING FORCE: Truck driver Pat Armstrong (centre) with Lee Lawler and Rob Pirc from the Transport Workers Union. Picture: Sylvia Liber
For veteran Wollongong truck driver Pat Armstrong, this week’s decision by the Turnbull government to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) is hard to fathom.
The RSRT sets pay rates for truck drivers and acts as a road safety watchdog, but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says there is no link between road safety and remuneration.
Having been behind the wheel for 42 years, Mr Armstrong tells a different story.
“If you’re not getting paid the right money you’re going to cut corners,” he said.
“There’s a direct relationship between remuneration and safety.”
The 60-year-old works for a “reputable company” where in-truck cameras monitor drivers’ movements.
“Everything we do is within the guidelines but there’s a lot of people out there that work outside of those guidelines,” he said.
Mr Armstrong currently drives a gas tanker and has transported dangerous goods for the past 15 years.
He recently addressed the tribunal about problems in the oil, fuel and gas sector.
“The tribunal was looking into my sector because of the pressures that cause tragedies like that Mona Vale incident,” he said.
“As you can imagine, dangerous goods makes a big mess.”
In the Mona Vale incident – on October 1, 2013 – a Cootes fuel tanker rolled and exploded into flames, killing two people.
Mr Armstrong described the axing of the RSRT as “a kick in the guts for every transport driver across Australia” and said the Prime Minister should “hang his head in shame”.
TWU South Coast sub-branch secretary Rob Pirc described the move as “gut wrenching”, adding the crossbenchers who supported it “really do have blood on their hands”.
Prior to the decision, Mr Turnbull said: “It is not a tribunal that does anything effective to do with safety, it undermines owner operators, it undermines small-business, it undermines family businesses.”