Rushed truck licencing rule changes risk industry safety: TWU

Transport Workers' Union

The TWU has said the decision to rush truck licencing rules changes in the same week Australia clocked 1,000 truck crash deaths since the abolition of the industry watchdog showed the Federal Government has failed on truckie safety.

The announcement late yesterday to recognise New Zealand truck licences in Australia is silent on any mandatory safety and training inductions, meaning there’s no requirement for foreign drivers to understand local road rules or industry requirements, like fatigue management, mandatory breaks and how to handle Australia’s most dangerous roads. The changes also provide no protections against exploited foreign labour undercutting an industry already stretched thin.

The union has criticised the announcement, saying after years of inaction to tackle deadly pressure throughout supply chains, the best the Federal Government could do was to dangerously cut corners on safety in essential transport workplaces, and bring in potentially exploited foreign labour with no experience on our roads.

Many Australian roads require significant training and knowledge, such as the South-Eastern Freeway into Adelaide which is notorious for serious truck crashes and near-misses. The freeway has seen drivers die, lose limbs and have their licenses revoked for failing to use low gears and wearing out their brakes.

The TWU will today write to the Prime Minister and Austroads to demand consultation on licensing changes involves the union and workers who have been calling for a carefully thought-through, evidence-based progression to competency-based licensing for years. The TWU has warned against rushing through any change that risks putting inexperienced people in charge of heavy vehicles sooner than they’re ready.

“Scott Morrison is attempting to fly by the seat of his pants to cover up a supply chain mess of his own making. In Australia’s deadliest industry, which the Prime Minister has a habit of overlooking, he has shown that he is prepared to sacrifice industry and road safety to save his own hide and cover for the fact he’s failed to plan ahead to deal with COVID”, TWU National Assistant Secretary Nick McIntosh said.

“We’ve seen time and time again what happens when untrained drivers get behind the wheel, including trucks being stuck in major motorway tunnels because the drivers didn’t know how to reverse the vehicle. Knowing how and when to use your brakes or low gears when on a steep descent can literally be the difference between life and death – like on Adelaide’s infamous South-Eastern Freeway which has tragically claimed lives and limbs from numerous truck crashes. That knowledge isn’t instinctive, you get it through comprehensive and serious safety training.

“If Scott Morrison wants to address chronic driver shortages, he should go back to the letters sent by the TWU and ARTIO in September and October calling for a covid-safe transport roadmap with free rapid antigen tests for transport workers. After that, he should go back a month further to the Senate Report which outlined 10 recommendations to make trucking safer and more viable.”

“Licencing reform isn’t a tick-box exercise politicians can do from their offices. If governments are going to alter licence rules, it’s non-negotiable that they consult with truckies and unions to develop a system that is fit for purpose and safe”, McIntosh said.

Over the last five months, a truck driver died on Australian roads every six days.

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