Blacktown truck drivers today said more people would be killed on the roads if the Federal Government succeeded in abolishing a national safety watchdog, the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT).
Transport Workers Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon and Federal MP for Greenway Michelle Rowland today joined drivers in Blacktown to urge the Government to keep the Tribunal, which intervenes when drivers are put under economic pressure to speed or skip rest breaks.
St Claire owner-driver Mark Trevillian said drivers were forced to drive too fast or too long to meet the unrealistic delivery deadlines set by companies like Coles.
“At the moment owner drivers are just stretched to the absolute limit and something’s got to give,” Mr Trevillian said.
“There’s got to be corners cut. Either working longer hours or not servicing the vehicle, running tyres to the absolute bare minimum.
“The money is just not there to do everything properly and safely.
“That’s why we need the RSRT.”
Ms Rowland said there were more than 1000 truck drivers in the Greenway electorate, and they deserved to do their job without risking their lives and those of other motorists.
“No one should be forced to break the law, risk a crash and take the chance on being killed on our roads, because of unfair economic pressure from clients,” Ms Rowland said.
“Truck driving is Australia’s most dangerous industry, with a fatality rate 15 times higher than the national average.
“These deaths are preventable, but only if we have strong national laws, and effective safety watchdogs, to keep our roads safe.
“If the Government abolishes the RSRT there will be more economic pressure on drivers, and more injuries on our roads.
“The Blacktown community is against the Government’s plans. It’s time the Government listened to the public and left this road safety watchdog to do its work.”
Transport Workers Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the RSRT was the only national body that policed unfair economic pressure on drivers.
“Major retailers like Coles tell drivers to meet tighter and tighter delivery times, or lose their jobs,” Mr Sheldon said.
“The consequence is trucks on the road for too long, or going too fast.
“When drivers aren’t paid enough to maintain their vehicles or earn a living wage, they are forced to speed, skip breaks or carry overweight loads just to survive.
“Around 330 Australians die in truck crashes each year. Many of these deaths could be prevented if clients like Coles stopped using economic pressure to force drivers to break the law.
“We’ve seen Coles and its parent company Wesfarmers deliver $2.1 million in Liberal donations.
“And we’re seeing closed-door meetings between Coles and Liberal MPs, after which the Government declared that the RSRT was “red tape”.
“This retailer is using economic pressure to squeeze drivers. Now it is using donations pressure to squeeze the Government.
“Our message to the Federal Government is simple – road safety is not ‘red tape.’ Don’t cut the RSRT. Let the national safety watchdog do its work in saving lives on Australia’s roads.”
A 2012 industry survey of one major transport supply chain – Coles – found:
* 48% of drivers faced economic pressure to skip rest breaks
* 28% were pressured to speed; and
* 26% were pressured to carry illegally overweight loads.