Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) national secretary Tony Sheldon said six truck crashes and six deaths in two days was evidence of the pressure on drivers to speed or skip rest breaks, to meet unrealistic deadlines.
“Road transport is Australia’s most dangerous industry, with 330 deaths in truck crashes last year,” Mr Sheldon said.
“Tragically, this includes six fatalities in six separate heavy vehicle accidents [in the past two days].
“We’re seeing more and more deaths as a result of speeding, fatigue and poor maintenance – all caused by employers setting lunatic deadlines and keeping trucks on the road too long.
“A 2012 industry survey showed 46% of drivers in one major supply chain – Coles – are pressured to skip rest breaks, and 26% have to speed to meet delivery deadlines.
“It’s time to end pressure on drivers through action in the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which sets safe rates of pay and conditions in heavy vehicle transport.
“The Abbott Government is ‘reviewing’ the Tribunal with a view to closing it down.
“If this occurs we’ll see even tighter deadlines, worse maintenance and more pressure on our drivers. And that can only mean more truck crashes and deaths on our roads.”
The crashes occurred on 11 and 12 November 2013:
- A driver was killed and several people injured when two trucks collided on the Great Eastern Highway in WA.
- A man died when his car collided head-on with a heavy vehicle on the Pacific Highway in northern NSW.
- A pedestrian died after being hit by a truck in Osborne Park in WA.
- A cyclist died after being hit by a truck in St Peters in inner western Sydney.
- A truck driver was killed when his heavy vehicle rolled over on the Carnarvon Highway in Queensland.
- A 31-year old man died when his truck crashed in north Queensland.
Mr Sheldon said a 2012 industry survey of Coles supply chain drivers found:
46% of heavy vehicle drivers were pressured to skip rest breaks to meet delivery times;
28% of drivers carried overweight loads in order to deliver goods on time; and
26% of drivers were pressured to speed to meet employer deadlines.
Comments from drivers taking part in the survey included:
- “I skip brakes maintenance because we don’t have enough hours to complete our work.” (Outer Brisbane)
- “Loads are often overweight but you can’t afford to say no to the job.” (Victoria)
- “The boss said if we miss the delivery windows we may as well kiss the contract goodbye.” (Tasmania)
Mr Sheldon said the Transport Workers’ Union would work with the Opposition and minor parties in the Senate to block any repeal of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and help prevent further fatalities involving heavy vehicles.