Opinion

Push for a safer workplace

It remains clear that the transport industry still suffers from a lack of consultation with drivers and operators. If the NSW government is consulting drivers and operators, then it must be ignoring the advice. 

We saw little of substance for the transport industry in their recent state budget. With wages and rates remaining stagnant, owner-drivers and operators are facing a difficult financial new year as a result. 

On July 1, in NSW, the cosy deal between Transurban and the NSW government means that heavy vehicle operators forced to use Transurban Linkt toll roads are now copping a 2.1 per cent increase in toll costs. 

Now more than ever the costs of using toll roads is outweighing any benefits drivers may get in terms of time or distance saved. 

It looks like we are not getting relief from fuel costs any time soon either. At the moment the costs of doing the job are beginning to outweigh the benefits of doing the job.

July 1 will also see increases in administration fees from organisations like the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), which is also raising the costs of penalties. 

As I have said before, drivers are asking themselves why it is they should climb into the cab tomorrow.

The TWU knows the link between the financial squeeze on our industry and road safety for transport workers and all road users. 

Wealthy retailers and manufacturers are continuing to push transport worker pay down, while their profits continue to soar to record levels. Combine this with the increases in tolls and fuel costs, and we know this is forcing operators and drivers to delay maintenance on trucks, work long hours, speed and skip their rest breaks.

This is what is behind a safety crisis in our industry, and it’s time for the government to take meaningful action to hold those at the top of the supply chain account – rather than targeting hard-working transport workers who are just trying to make an honest living. 

Senator Sterle’s report ‘Without Trucks Australia Stops’ identified that transport workers and operators are being increasingly compelled to work longer, harder and faster to keep their heads above water, and this has created an environment where risk taking behaviour is increasingly becoming the only competitively viable option in the industry.

The inquiry made a series of recommendations, including that the government establish an independent body to set enforceable minimum standards across the industry, and an effective enforcement framework to ensure compliance with those standards. 

The TWU sees the direct impact this will have on both safety and security in the transport industry. 

Issues like driver exploitation need to be addressed, along with proper rates of payment as they directly affect the safety concerns in the industry. A driver must be able to make a living while not having their safety or livelihood compromised. 

The TWU is holding the new Albanese government to account, seeking urgent action to deliver a national regulatory system that would ensure all road transport workers have access to enforceable minimum standards.

Everyone deserves to be able to make a living, safely. 

  • Richard Olsen is TWU NSW/QLD State Secretary

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