The TWU has criticised a gaping lack of regulation and policy after police issued over 2,000 truck defect notices on 1 February in the largest ever inspection operation.
Police inspected 5,000 trucks in an operation that involved Victorian, Queensland, SA and ACT police forces checking trucks entering and leaving NSW. Police revealed 26 drivers tested positive for drugs while RMS inspectors found one driver working in excess of the 12-hour limit who was “almost asleep at the wheel”.
TWU (VIC/TAS BRANCH) Secretary John Berger said it was obvious that many of those drivers fined were the public face for a behind-the-scenes crisis gripping the trucking industry.
“If the Federal Coalition and various governmental authorities do not see the astounding number of fines and charges issued against drivers on one single day as proof positive that the industry is in crisis, then maybe we have the wrong people in charge,” John said.
“There is no way anyone would believe that such a great percentage of truck drivers – many sharing the roads with their own families and children – would take such risks with other road users and their own livelihoods unless they were being forced to operate in such a way.”
TWU National Secretary said while the drivers have “copped the fines and carried the charges”, it is those wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top who are the ones who “should be in the dock”.
“Their low cost contracts are putting financial pressure on transport companies and drivers which causes maintenance on trucks to get delayed. Drivers are pushed to work longer hours, speed and skip breaks,” Tony said.
“The Federal Government must take responsibility for driving down standards in the transport industry and increasing the death toll. It shut down a road safety watchdog two years ago and now we are seeing defective trucks on our roads and deaths sky-rocket. The Government did this despite repeated warnings and its own report showing the watchdog was cutting truck crashes by 28%”.
Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics fatal truck crash statistics, https://bitre.gov.au/publications/ongoing/fatal_heavy_vehicle_crashes_quarterly.aspx released last month showed a 9.4% increase in deaths from truck crashes nationally. The figured for NSW spiked significantly with an 86% jump in deaths from articulated trucks. New Safe Work Australia data for 2017 showed almost 40% of all workplace deaths involved a transport worker. Despite overall workplace deaths decreasing last year, the number of transport workers killed on the job jumped to 66, up from 57 in 2016.
In October, a cross-party Senate committee approved a report recommending that the Government facilitate industry talks to “establish an independent industry body which has the power to formulate, implement and enforce supply chain standards and accountability as well as sustainable, safe rates for the transport industry”.