Transport Workers’ Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon today said the Abbott Government’s “review” of the national Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal showed contempt for families of the 330 people killed in truck-related crashes in the last year and a casual disregard for drivers pressured by clients to speed or carry overweight loads.
Last night (20/11/13) Workplace Minister Eric Abetz announced a “review” of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which intervenes to ensure truck drivers aren’t pressured to speed, or skip maintenance and rest breaks because of poor pay or conditions.
Mr Sheldon said the Minister’s statement made clear he planned to close the Tribunal, regardless of the evidence set before the “review.”
“Road transport is Australia’s most dangerous industry, with 330 deaths in truck crashes last year,” Mr Sheldon said.
“Federal Government figures show truck drivers are ten times more likely to be killed in work accidents than those in other jobs.
“And we’re seeing more and more deaths as a result of speeding, fatigue and poor maintenance – caused by employers setting lunatic deadlines and keeping trucks on the road too long.
“The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal is the way to bring this pressure to an end, and to save lives on our roads.
“It can intervene to set pay or conditions where clients put economic pressure on transport companies and drivers to drive unsafely, skip rest breaks or skip maintenance on their vehicles.
“Yet in a sneering press release, Minister Abetz dismisses the Safety Tribunal as a burden on business.
“The Minister needs to understand – safer roads are not a burden. They’re an obligation on government.
“The Road Safety Tribunal is there to crack down on those industry clients who set lunatic deadlines and force drivers to speed or drive too long.
“But Abetz’s message to the families of crash victims is – road safety is too hard.
“We’ll be making clear to this Minister that road deaths, unfair pay and unsafe working conditions are not just red tape.
“And we’ll do that on behalf of drivers forced by Coles and others to speed or drive too long, and on behalf of the families of the 330 people killed last year in truck-related crashes.”
A 2012 industry survey of Coles supply chain drivers found:
· 46% of heavy vehicle drivers were pressured to skip rest breaks to meet delivery times;
· 28% of drivers carried overweight loads in order to deliver goods on time; and
· 26% of drivers were pressured to speed to meet employer deadlines.
Comments from drivers taking part in the survey include:
· “I skip brakes maintenance because we don’t have enough hours to complete our work ”(outer Brisbane)
· “Loads are often overweight but you can’t afford to say no to the job.” (Victoria)
· “The boss said if we miss the delivery windows we may as well kiss the contract goodbye.”(Tasmania)
Mr Sheldon said the Transport Workers Union would also work with the Opposition and minor parties in the Senate to block any repeal of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and help prevent further fatalities involving heavy vehicles.