The Guardian • Issue #1972

200 Truck drivers killed since Road Safety Tribunal abolished

Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) Statement

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1972

The Transport Workers’ Union has blamed federal government inaction for the deaths of 200 truck drivers and warned that death rates will increase as deadly pressures are exacerbated by extreme demand during the pandemic.

On Sunday, a truck driver was found dead following a truck fire, bringing the death toll for truckies to 200 in just over five years, while the overall number of people killed in truck crashes has reached nearly 1,000 in the same time period.

In April 2016, the LNP government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, despite its own report concluding that truck crashes would be reduced by twenty-eight per cent.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine called for urgent government regulation to address the growing crisis in trucking.

“Last year we heard the Prime Minister call truck drivers ‘heroes’, but when it comes to the alarming death rates, poor vaccination access, workplace outbreaks and truckies forced to queue for hours in the rain for COVID tests, he is completely silent.

“A truck driver killed every ten days – that’s the legacy of the LNP government’s reckless move to rip down a road safety watchdog to line the pockets of their mates at the top of trucking supply chains. For more than five years since, the federal government’s inaction has enabled wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies to put a deadly squeeze on transport contracts, forcing operators and drivers to cut corners in safety to stay in business.

“Trucking is Australia’s deadliest industry, and it is only getting worse. Truck drivers over the last 18 months have operated under extreme pressure to meet the soaring demand of clients like Amazon, whose record profits jumped 224 per cent in the last quarter. With no tribunal in place to regulate the industry, those profits are failing to reach the workers whose jobs are under attack, like those at Toll forced to pursue strike action to protect their pay and conditions,” he said.

Earlier this year a major study by Monash University revealed chronic health problems in trucking, including over eighty per cent of drivers overweight or obese, one in five suffering from depression, over seventy per cent living with chronic pain and almost a third with multiple chronic health conditions.

The federal government 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 $4mil. Research shows heavy vehicle crashes cost $4.64bil a year.

The abolition of the tribunal brought down investigations into safety in deadly sectors such as the transportation of oil, fuel and gas and tore up regulation guaranteeing owner drivers payment within thirty days of completing a job.

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