Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash must respond to media reports concerning the crisis in the trucking industry and be brought to task over the role they have played in making our roads more dangerous for everyday Australians.
The explosive revelations in today’s media – such as testimony from truck drivers regarding overloading, poorly maintained trucks, long driving hours, speeding and driving schools giving trucking licences without adequate training – is something the Government has been warned about repeatedly and yet has chosen to ignore.
There is no doubt a direct line can be drawn between the tearing down of the independent Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) – a body designed to investigate the very problems road users face as outlined in todays report – by Turnbull and Cash and an increased number of heavy vehicle accidents and road trauma and deaths resulting from heavy vehicle accidents since it was torn down.
Truck drivers are dying and other road users are dying yet nothing is being done. Well, something was done. The Governement appeased its big business backers by tearing down the RSRT and the only wall that was protecting truck drivers and the travelling public. They must apologise to all Australians, personally apologise to all those touched by heavy vehicle accidents and bring back the Tribunal.
Truck drivers and the TWU are also demanding that the Federal Government respond to today’s reports highlighting the crisis in trucking that is leading to deaths and injuries on the roads.
The investigation links the increase in truck crash deaths to the pressure drivers are under to take risks to get the job done. It highlights a litany of failings in the industry, including vehicles overloaded, vehicles not maintained properly, long driving hours, speeding and driving schools giving trucking licences without adequate training. One driver was sacked for raising safety concerns about having his vehicle overloaded. Another driver was forced to drive long hours which were not recorded in his logbook. He too was eventually sacked. Chain of responsibility laws “have proved too prescriptive and easy to avoid for large companies”, the investigation adds.
“The Federal Government cannot ignore the role it has played in making our roads less safe to travel on. What has been exposed today is something the Government has been warned about repeatedly and yet chose to make worse. It tore down the independent Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal investigating the very problems raised. The Government’s own report showed this tribunal was cutting truck crash deaths by 28%*. All road users are now paying the price for this,” TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said.
Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks has increased by over 7% this year, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Safe Work Australia data shows that 40% of all workplace deaths involved transport workers. This is up from one in three transport workers last year and one in four in 2015.
“The Government let the wealthy retailers and manufacturers off the hook by closing down the tribunal. These wealthy clients through their low cost contracts are putting financial pressure on transport companies and kick-starting the deadly cycle which results in deaths on our roads. Without tackling the source of the problem we can expect deaths to continue increasing,” Sheldon added.
Thousands of truck drivers around the country have held several major protests over deadly pressure in the industry. Two weeks ago 500 drivers protested at an Aldi store in western Sydney over the wealthy retailer’s failure to discuss ways to improve safety. Protests have also been held at Aldi operations in Fremantle and Adelaide. Aldi has taken Federal Court action to try to stop truck drivers protesting against them and to restrict social media and other communications revealing safety and pay in their supply chains.
Truck driver Frank Black says drivers are angry about the Government’s inaction on holding clients to account. “Drivers see the pressure increasing and things getting worse. Truck drivers are dying and other road users are dying yet nothing is done,” he said.
Jasmine Payget, whose six-year-old son Rian was killed in a truck crash, said change was vital. “The government just needs to do its job. Last year the Federal Government abolished a tribunal which made legal rules to ensure more safety on the roads. They have replaced it with nothing. is there any wonder that deaths and injuries are increasing? I am a mum who was going away for the weekend with her family. I have a right to roads that safe. Truck drivers have family and they have the right to come home safely,” she said.