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Truck driver death toll doubles in 2021

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The 2021 truck crash death toll currently stands at 150, including 50 truck drivers, up from 26 lives lost in 2020.

The updated death toll figures come following the tragic death of a 49-year-old driver killed in a two-truck smash on the Pacific Highway in NSW yesterday.

In a media statement released today, the Transport Workers’ Union national secretary Michael Kaine offered his deepest condolences to the families of those we’ve lost in 2021.

But also points the finger at the federal government for failing to end the “deadly industry pressures” for truck drivers on our roads.

The union said Christmas-like demand every week as a result of the pandemic has smashed road transport supply chains, with truck drivers under immense pressure to keep goods moving to unrealistic deadlines.

Earlier this year, police said fatigue likely contributed to both a ‘horrific’ fiery crash which killed two drivers south of Port Macquarie, and a devastating roll over which killed a truck driver in Lameroo, SA.

The 2021 death toll figures follow a recent TWU survey of 1100 truck drivers which show almost one in two drivers knowing someone killed on the job.

The same survey revealed that employers had pressured one in four to work beyond legal hours and drive tired, and one in five had been pressured to speed to meet unrealistic deadlines.

Kaine said the carnage on Australian roads would only get worse without urgent government intervention.

“Everyone deserves to come home safely from work at the end of the day, and it’s heartbreaking that 50 transport families will have an empty seat at the table this Christmas,” said Kaine.

“2021 has been a year like no other. Wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top are wringing supply chains dry and pushing drivers to their very limits in their deadly pursuit of profit. Drivers have never been more stressed and less rested, and these figures show the devastating impact in black and white.

“Our highways are a blood bath and the federal government’s nowhere to be seen. Scott Morrison’s put truckie safety in the too hard basket, ignoring an industry-supported Senate report calling for an independent body to set and enforce minimum rates in the industry for months.”

Kaine also pointed out that five years ago, the federal government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which he said was dedicated to investigating safety and regulating payment arrangements to reduce the financial pressure on truck drivers.

Assistant Minister for Road Safety Scott Buchholz said every death on our roads is a tragedy and he offered his condolences to the families and friends of those lost on our roads in 2021.

“However, I do not accept that there is a direct correlation between the notion of safe rates and road deaths,” he told Big Rigs.

“As the BITRE National Crash data from 2016-20 shows, there is no trend increase in truck driver deaths correlating with the RSRT.

“During Covid-19 we’ve worked with the TWU and it is disappointing to hear these claims. This is a shameless politicisation of deaths on our roads, and it is baseless to link the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to road deaths.”

Buchholz said that the NTI’s 2021 Major Accident Report revealed that in the year 2020, where a car and a truck were involved in a fatal crash, the car was the at-fault party 78.3 per cent of the time.

“The only thing we can be sure of is an Albanese Labor government will bring back safe rates and force 50,000 owner operators off the road. I support the NatRoad’s position that it would disadvantage our industry and small businesses.

“If the TWU think there is pressure on the supply chain now, imagine taking tens of thousands of hard-working drivers off our roads.”

Buchholz said the federal government is investing in better, safer roads.

“Through our $110 billion infrastructure plan, of course our targeted $3 billion Road Safety Program, the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program and the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative.”

The updated death toll figure comes in the same week the NHVR announced that the overall health of the fleet was improving.

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