The Transport Workers’ Union has slammed a dangerous proposal from the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), saying its attempt to water down fatigue and working hour rules shows it does not represent drivers’ interests or care that road crashes and truck fatalities in road transport will increase.
The TWU says the ATA’s proposed Road Transport Act to scrap truck drivers’ fatigue logbooks and put employers in charge of monitoring driving hours puts “the fox in charge of the henhouse” in an industry known to apply deadly pressures on drivers.
A shocking 2021 TWU survey of 1,100 truckies revealed that one in four had been pressured by their employer to work beyond legal hours and skip rest breaks, while one in five had been pressured to falsify working hours in their logbooks.
The ATA submission also proposes watering down certification rules, allowing transport businesses who claim they are not exceeding maximum working hours to operate without ongoing scrutiny of their safety standards and practices.
Road transport is an industry in crisis, with deadly pressure from wealthy companies at the top of supply chains to speed and drive tired to meet unrealistic deadlines compounded by gig companies undercutting the industry. The results are deadly: so far in 2022, 42 people have died in truck-involved crashes – including 14 truck drivers.
TWU National Assistant Secretary Nick McIntosh said if the National Transport Commission is serious about improving standards in the industry, the ATA’s proposal must be rejected.
“The ATA’s proposing putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Rather than tackling the question of why employers are pressuring drivers to work dangerously or looking at ways to improve how logbooks are used, the ATA’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater to give bosses more power to cover up the deadly pressure on drivers.
“The ATA’s again putting profits ahead of the safety of the hardworking men and women who do an extraordinary job driving our national supply chains. Watering down fatigue and compliance rules to make it easier for companies throughout supply chains to pressure truckies will only make road transport more deadly.
“Federal regulation is absolutely the best way to clean up the industry’s economics, but not like this. Drivers need an independent body with the power to set enforceable standards in road transport; something the Senate recommended over six months ago. Regulation like this would drastically lift standards and stop unregulated gig bottom feeders like Amazon from undercutting the industry.
“If the ATA was truly representative of the industry, rather than just the businesses looking to squeeze supply chains and work drivers harder for longer no matter the cost, it should join with the TWU in banging on the Prime Minister’s door demanding immediate action, not floating dangerous proposals like this which would gut safety standards in trucking”. McIntosh said.
Veteran owner driver and former ATA owner driver representative on the Association’s General Council Frank Black also slammed the proposal for taking control out of truckies’ hands.
“The idea that transport bosses are better placed to monitor working hours than drivers would be funny if it weren’t so serious. In my opinion, giving bosses more power to dictate how drivers work without drivers being able to independently document their own working hours only increases the chances of being underpaid or ripped off”.
“It’s hard enough to attract drivers to our industry given rising costs and slipping standards. Giving companies more power to cover up dodgy behaviour isn’t going to change that – it’s only going to make it worse”, Black said.