The Union’s warning came after the National Transport Commission recommended draft legislation that would see heavy vehicles caught driving 15km/h or more above the speed limit immediately forced off the road.
TWU National Assistant Secretary Michael Kaine described the move as a Band-Aid solution to the underlining issues in the trucking industry, which have contributed to 2,548 deaths on Australian roads in a decade.
“Enforcement on our roads is important. But to make this industry safer we must address the real issue of why truck drivers are breaching the law in the first place. So long as transport companies and drivers are under incredible pressure from clients like major retailer Coles to deliver freight cheaper and faster, heavy vehicle driving will remain to be the most lethal job in Australia.
“The history of enforcement shows that regardless of how many strategies are in place to enforce on-the-road behaviour, if the lethal supply chain pressures are not reduced, there will continue to be breaches.”
Truck driver Mark Trevillian said that change in the transport industry is desperately needed. “Drivers are being pushed to go over their hours and take risks. This means truckies are tired and they’re driving vehicles where maintenance is being stalled or tyres aren’t being replaced when they should. It’s an industry-wide issue that puts the safety of drivers and members of the public on the line.”
Safe Work Australia figures show one in three transport employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done on time. BITRE figures show truck drivers are 12 times more likely to be killed at work than other occupations.
Mr Kaine said major transport clients like Coles were the economic employers in the road transport industry and had the power to dictate terms and conditions of freight contracts without consideration of the impact on the safety.
“Until companies like Coles are held accountable for safe work and conditions throughout their supply chain there will continue be an incentive for operators to breach the rules in order to retain or gain work and people will keep dying as a result.”