Today, transport workers and TWU national councilors will take to the streets in Sydney CBD in a vigil to remember 301 truck drivers killed since the Coalition tore down a road safety watchdog seven years ago.
The 301 truckies who have tragically lost their lives make up roughly a quarter of the 1,250 total truck crash deaths since the watchdog was abolished in April 2016.
While remembering those lost, workers are also calling on Federal Parliament to pass urgent reform to set enforceable standards in the industry, and for wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies to commit to safe, fair and sustainable transport supply chains.
One of the drivers lost 18 months ago was working for Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics, and fell victim to the unchecked commercial pressure from the top of the supply chain that ultimately led to the collapse of Australia’s largest cold chain operator.
The TWU understands the driver had been working for roughly 24 hours despite calling in to say he was too fatigued to keep driving. He was told Scott’s would lose the contract if he didn’t continue with the delivery of fruit. The truck he was driving rolled and caught fire after hitting a tree at Forbes, NSW. He died at the scene.
Former Scott’s driver John Waltis said the death of his colleague was a tragedy of the crisis in transport and showed why transport reform is so urgently needed.
“We were all shaken by this horrific incident, which could and should have been prevented. This was the worst possible outcome of commercial pressures in trucking. JC knew he was too tired to do the run, but he had the weight of the company’s survival on his shoulders.
“Everyone is responsible for the safety of themselves and others, but not everyone is held to account. Investigations are underway, but there are no eyes on the clients, and the pressure they’d put on Scott’s and ultimately on JC. That’s why we need regulation, to stop the pressure on operators and drivers to take risks to stay in business.”
The TWU recently served a claim on the 40 top retailers, food and beverage manufacturers and agricultural companies calling on them to sign up to a set of six principles for safer, fairer supply chains.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said workers wanted to see urgent change to stop the rampant deaths in the industry.
“Today we pay tribute to 301 truck drivers killed since the Coalition abolished a road safety watchdog and refused to act to ease deadly pressures in the industry. Our deepest sympathies go to the families and communities torn apart by grief.
“There is a terrible human cost to the squeeze on transport contracts from the top of the supply chain. Pressure is piled on drivers and operators to speed, skip vital maintenance and drive fatigued.
“With the rise of the exploitative gig economy, we’ve also seen 11 food delivery riders killed on our roads as they rush and work extensive hours to make ends meet and avoid being deactivated by the algorithm. The rock-bottom wages and absence of rights for workers in the gig economy have only heightened the pressure on operators and drivers in a destructive market that is devouring itself.
“There is an answer to this carnage. Federal Parliament will soon have the opportunity to pass reform to set standards in transport. Today workers are urging politicians not to hesitate in passing this lifesaving reform into law.”
So far this year, 88 people have died in truck crashes, including 25 truck drivers.