Death toll underlines issues

This year alone, 32 truck drivers have died on the job. There are grieving families and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) extends its sympathies to all those left behind. 

These deaths show there is a problem in the industry, that is not going away, and is being met with too much silence from people like the federal government. 

The TWU is calling for urgent reform to ensure all transport workers have proper rights with safe standards that are enforced to address the deadly nature in the industry.

We have the starting point, the ten industry backed recommendations from Senator Sterle’s inquiry into the transport industry. 

Nobody in government has implemented these recommendations which aim to set fair standards for the industry. 

If we want to reduce truck workplace deaths, reduce driver fatigue, tackle wage theft, ensure migrant drivers are not exploited, encourage young drivers and female drivers into our industry and ensure transport operators are paid on time we need also to see clients held to account to ensure fairer and safer contracts. 

We need to address the financial pressures the industry faces from rising fuel costs and rising Transurban toll road costs with a push to achieve ‘same job, same pay’ across the industry. We need the legislative support to ensure payments are made on time as well. 

The TWU has joined a transport industry alliance calling on the Albanese government to restore the fuel tax credits scheme abolished by its predecessor. 

We need to prevent a collapse of national supply chains and an expected surge in deadly pressure on our roads, as road transport braces for cost spikes once the fuel excise returns in full in September.

The TWU in NSW has pushed for and won some relief in NSW in the Industrial Relations Commission for an increase to the rates paid under the General Carriers Contract Determination in NSW. 

This has been providing some relief to owner-drivers in terms of your cost recovery for doing the job. The figures get reviewed every month and that means on August 15 another rate increase was added for owner-drivers. 

I want to remind you that the Senate report, which was compiled from in-depth two-year inquiry which heard of horror stories about the deadly pressures to work fatigued, speed and skip rest breaks, stated “the central recommendation of this committee, and the submitters, is for the establishment of a central powerful independent body to regulate, promote, fund and support all parts of the sector.”

Given that the LNP government tore down a road safety watchdog in 2016 and subsequently 263 truck drivers have been killed at work it is important that all drivers (owner and employee) have their rights protected, have their voices heard and that they can raise problems when they need to for fairness and safety. 

There is no reason for us to be having a conversation any more about the Senator Sterle recommendations. 

We all know what is needed, the recommendations need to be implemented.

I am very worried there will be no meaningful decrease in the road toll from heavy vehicle crashes until that occurs. 

  • Richard Olsen is TWU NSW/QLD state secretary

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