Horror truck survey reveals deaths, wage theft as transport workers fight to protect safe standards

Transport Workers' Union

Nearly half of truckies know a driver killed on the job and one in two have had wages stolen according to a shocking new survey. It comes as several thousand transport workers prepare to hold a national day of strike action if good, safe jobs are not protected by major transport operators during negotiations over the next week.

The survey of over 1,100 truck drivers established a clear link between pay and safety, with supply chains crippled by the ‘Amazon Effect’ of cost-cutting and sham contracting at AmazonFlex.

Owner drivers have to take risks to stay in business. Three-in-four had completed a run that resulted in no profit and nearly two thirds worried they’d have to sell their truck to get by. More than half delayed maintenance they couldn’t afford, while 42% didn’t raise safety concerns in case it prevented them being paid.

Employee drivers revealed dangerous demands from bosses to breach safety laws, with over a quarter pressured to work beyond legal hours and skip rest breaks, and a fifth pressured to falsify log books which track driver fatigue. Over a third worked more than 60 hours a week.

One in five was pressured to speed to meet deadlines and one in ten reported drivers being pressured to drive trucks that had been tampered with to go faster.

A concerning 30% knew truck drivers who had taken stimulants to stay awake while driving, and one in eight knew of employers offering their drivers illicit drugs to keep working.

A third of survey respondents had been injured at work, with reports of irreversible nerve damage, torn shoulder muscles, and several accounts of career-ending injuries from unsafe practices. Almost half had witnessed a serious crash, with one driver reporting that he witnessed his friend killed in a burning truck.

Of the 52% who had experienced wage theft, 68% had not been paid for work they had done and 43% were underpaid minimum rates. A quarter had been ripped off by more than $5,000, and one in three had experienced wage theft over 20 times. Only 22% got their money back, and a quarter of those were out of pocket for over a year.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said even more people will be killed in truck crashes if an industry-wide push towards insecure work succeeded.

“This survey reveals the harrowing truth that hundreds of people die needlessly each year in preventable truck crashes. Standards desperately need to be raised but instead are being dragged down by unchecked corporate greed squeezing every last drop out of supply chains and exploitative business models like AmazonFlex and Uber flooding the market. Things are only going to get worse without immediate action.

“Workers know what happens when good, secure jobs are outsourced to the lowest bidder: safety standards plummet while the pressure on drivers skyrockets. While the Federal Government fails to lift a finger, workers across major transport operators are standing up. Those bravely taking strike action are all that stand between good jobs with safe conditions and yards flooded with insecure work as companies slash costs to remain competitive.

“Scott Morrison can no longer pretend the crisis in transport is someone else’s problem. The Federal Government needs to urgently implement Senate recommendations to establish an independent body to set minimum binding standards in trucking and end the pressure killing truck drivers,” he said.

Workers have urged management at Toll, StarTrack, FedEx, Linfox and Bevchain to come back to the table and settle outstanding job security concerns by limiting outsourcing and removing financial incentives to contract out work.

Several negotiation meetings are scheduled in the coming days, though FedEx management has failed to respond to workers’ requests to meet.

If commitments are not made over the course of the next week, strikes will converge in a national day of action as workers are left with a terrible choice: withdraw their labour, or sign away their job security.

Click here for the survey results and truck driver comments

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