Chain of responsibility, Fatigue management, Heavy vehicle news, News, Work diary

NHVR should target those at top of supply chain, not truckies, says union

More transparency is needed around supply chain investigations, rather than NHVR blitzes on truckies.

That’s the call from the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) which has taken umbrage with the regulator’s current roadside crackdown in NSW on alleged work diary offences.

In a letter from TWU national secretary Michael Kaine to NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto sighted by Big Rigs, Kaine argues that instead of a driver compliance blitz there should instead be a “thorough effort” to identify and rectify the supply chain/contract pressures that result in drivers being placed in the “mortal danger” of working unsafely.

As a result, the union has urgently requested that NHVR provides it with the following:

  1. The plan (including commencement date) relating to the public launch of supply chain investigations or “blitzes” in order to publicise and target the root causes of industry pressures that promote poor on-road decision making.
  2. Information setting out the nature and extent of supply chain investigations being conducted in relation to the driver found to have worked 19.5 hours in a 24-hour period and in relation to the considerable number of penalty notices issued in relation to fatigue.
  3. Information setting out the scope of the recently announced NSW driver blitz, including what constitutes a ‘fatigue related offence’. For example, are clerical errors in work diaries, such as misspelling or failing to complete all contact information, included in this category and operation?

“The TWU shares your grave concern for the rise in Australia’s road toll as well as the serious safety implications of being on the road too long with insufficient rest,” Kaine writes.

“However, the TWU does not support a public announcement of a “blitz” on driver compliance. This sends completely the wrong signal to drivers and to the general community, that somehow on-road dangers in the road transport industry can be fixed by aggressively prosecuting those who have the least power to make structural and meaningful industry change.

“While the TWU acknowledges the responsibility of truck drivers to abide by the law, we know too that drivers do not “choose” to work long hours of their own free will. Rather, drivers often report that they feel pressured to do so to stay in business, keep their job, or prevent their employer from losing transport contracts. These pressures begin with the owners of freight at the top of the supply chain – those who set out the terms of transport contracts.”

A 2021 TWU survey of 1100 road transport workers found that 1 in 5 have been pressured to falsify logbooks, 1 in 4 have been pressured by employers to drive past legal hours and skip rest breaks, and 42 per cent of owner drivers said they didn’t raise safety concerns through fear of losing pay.

“This evidence points to an industry under immense pressure from the top of the supply chain,” Kaine added.

“Until these pressures are put under the microscope, drivers and operators will continue to shoulder the burden of the symptoms of a broken industry, and fatigue breaches will continue to occur with tragic consequences.”

The NHVR acknowledged it had received the letter, but told Big Rigs it was not in a position to make a comment prior to providing a formal response to the TWU.

For more details on the latest NHVR prosecutions, click here.

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