Truckies mark workers’ Memorial Day

Truck drivers will today call on the Federal Government to reform the trucking industry as they travel to Canberra to highlight their industry as Australia’s deadliest on Workers’ Memorial Day.

Drivers will lay 58 crosses and hi-vis vests on the lawn outside Federal Parliament, to remember the transport workers killed in 2019, the latest year for official Safe Work Australia statistics. The next highest number of worker deaths in 2019 was agriculture with 30 fatalities and construction with 26 fatalities.

TWU representatives jointly with trucking industry bodies the NRFA and ARTIO will also give evidence today at a Senate inquiry on safety in road transport and call for regulation to make trucking safer and fairer. The inquiry will also hear from Dr Michael H. Belzer, Professor of Economics at Wayne State University in Detroit, whose research shows the link between driver pay and safety.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Federal Government is failing to address the slaughter in transport which now includes gig workers such as food delivery riders.

“On Workers’ Memorial Day today we remember the transport workers who have lost their lives and our hearts go out to their families and communities left devastated. There are many other road users who have died in horrific truck crashes and we also remember them today. Many of these truck crashes are entirely preventable but they are happening because wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies are allowed to trade profit for safety in their supply chains. Low cost contracts see transport operators and drivers delay maintenance on trucks, speed, work long hours and skip breaks. Now along with truck drivers we are seeing food delivery riders dying on our roads because of the rip off. The human cost of this dynamic is horrific and we want it stopped,” he said.

“It is exactly five years since the Federal Government pulled down an independent tribunal which was examining risks to safety in transport and holding wealthy companies at the top to account. Nothing has been put in its place and now when horrific truck crashes happen drivers are jailed but there are no preventative measures put in place. The slaughter will continue unless the Federal Government reforms our industry and tackles the deadly cycle that starts with low cost transport contracts,” he said.

In April 2016 the Federal Government tore down the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, abolishing investigations into safety in deadly sectors such as the transportation of oil, fuel and gas and tearing up regulation guaranteeing owner drivers payment within 30 days of completing a job.

The Government’s own report into the tribunal concluded that its orders resulted in a 28% “reduction in the number of truck crashes”. However, the report called for the tribunal’s abolition because of its “significant cost to the economy … with any potential safety benefits significantly outweighed by the associated costs”. The tribunal’s annual funding was $4 million. Research shows heavy vehicle crashes cost $4.64 billion a year.

In the last five years the total number of deaths from truck crashes was 885, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

A major survey of truck drivers by Monash University this year revealed truck driving is also a shockingly unhealthy profession. Over 80% of drivers are overweight or obese, one in five suffering from depression, over 70% living with chronic pain and almost a third with multiple chronic health conditions.

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