2020 has been a hell of a year, as if you need telling. The TWU is looking forward to 2021 as a year to continue the fight to change things in our industry for the better.
Our specific plan for 2021, is about how we lift rates and conditions to a standard that respects the critical nature of the work transport workers do. It’s a plan that ensures a safer and fairer driving future for the industry, that gets you home at the end of every shift and properly paid.
The plan means we will question the industry, Governments and organisations like the RMS and the Heavy National Vehicle Regulator (HNVR) about changes that impact directly on the truck driver.
Let’s look at the recent announcement by the Federal Transport Minister, Michael McCormack. We look forward to the benefits that Electronic Work Diaries (EWD) bring, but we have still have questions and ongoing concerns.
We also look forward to the reduction in fines constantly applied to drivers for issues like spelling errors in their log books.
The TWU commented some time ago that EWD will not be the panacea that fixes the problems related to fatigue management, but it makes a contribution. We must avoid the movement of freight at the expense of driver safety.
The recent “grounding” of the Auswide Linehaul fleet by the NHVR is a classic example. The NHVR ordering the company to cease operations partly based on issues with “fatigue management and training”.
We know that EWD reduces the ability for managers to pressure a driver to drive for longer, yet despite that companies will continue to fail in their behaviour towards their drivers.
EWD will not determine or police the fatigue level of a driver. Professor Anne Williamson of the University of NSW has said previously “trying to improve compliance with inadequate fatigue risk management laws will do nothing to reduce driver fatigue.” … “Just increasing compliance with inadequate laws cannot reduce crash risk.”
So what’s missing? I would suggest:
• A commitment to the full solution for a critical workforce. The excitement from both the Federal Roads Minister and the head of the NHVR about EWD reducing paperwork is not balanced by a proposal or strategy that deals with what is outside the driver’s control.
• We need commitments to a better understanding of the conditions on the road.
• These commitments must include, support for management of fatigue, enforcement of maintenance and safety standards, adequate rest areas and a crackdown on the exploitation of drivers by companies whose management want to live the Rolls Royce lifestyle whilst their drivers are sent out to the job without a safe driving plan or a vehicle fit for purpose.
• We need commitment to legislation that ensures 30-day invoice periods to enable owner operators to keep on top of payments.
We need to ensure that the duty of care that is owed to truck drivers is fulfilled as the safety and future of our industry is a shared responsibility.