The Transport Workers’ Union has welcomed the Labor Party commitment to establishing a system to tackle what it calls the downward spiral in the road transport industry.
The Labor Party National Conference heard that since the Coalition Government abolished a road safety watchdog in 2016, 469 people have been killed in truck crashes. In August a Monash University study confirmed again that trucking is Australia’s deadliest job, with drivers 13 times more likely to die at work than any other profession.
The commitment to improving road safety will see the party engage with the TWU and key industry players in developing a system of safe standards that will apply to all parties in the transport supply chain and raise standards across the industry.
“This is an important day for our industry because we can be assured that under a Labor government, there will be a priority to make transport safer and fairer. The industry is on its knees because of the way wealthy companies at the top demand that their goods be delivered for the bare minimum. In trucking this means constant financial pressure on transport operators and drivers. This sees drivers pushed to work long hours, speed and skip rest breaks and it means vital maintenance on trucking fleets is delayed. This is why transport is Australia’s deadliest industry and why there are such high numbers of deaths and injuries in truck crashes. Today the transport industry has a brighter future, with a plan for sustainable businesses, quality jobs and safer roads,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.
Truck driver John Waltis told the Industrial Deaths Inquiry earlier this year that he’s attended more than 50 funerals for truck driver colleagues.
“I’ve seen the consequences of fatigue, the pressures to meet deadlines, and crashes due to mechanical faults. The devastating effects of these pressures goes beyond the 51 funerals I’ve attended. I’ve consoled far too many wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. It’s time for change,” Mr Waltis said.
When it comes to insolvencies, transport also faces difficulties. Data from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission shows that 469 companies entered into external administration in the transport, postal and warehousing industries between July 2016 and June 2017. The main reason for the insolvencies was inadequate cash flow.
Labor will also tackle the exploitation of transport workers in the on-demand economy.
“For on-demand workers the plan for Safe Rates means an end to exploitation and eighteenth century working conditions via an app. These workers, regardless of their label, will be able to seek rights and collectively agitate for conditions that will bring fairness, safety and stability to the industry,” Mr Kaine added.
A survey of riders has shown three out of every four riders are paid below minimum rates. Almost 50% of riders had either been injured on the job or knew someone who had. A Melbourne delivery rider recently won a landmark unfair dismissal case against Foodora.
- Truck crash deaths statistics
- Safe Rates
In April 2016 the Federal Government abolished a system backing safe rates that was holding wealthy clients such as retailers, banks, oil companies and ports to account for low cost contracts, which do not allow their goods to be delivered safely. This was despite the Government’s own reports showing a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28% [PricewaterhouseCoopers “Review of the Road Safety Remuneration System Final Report January 2016” (PWC Review 2016 – published by the Commonwealth Department of Employment on 1 April, 2016)].
- Evidence of pressure
A Macquarie University study in February criticised a ‘critical gap” since the Government abolished the regulation that the independent tribunal represented, “that can eliminate existing incentives for overly tight scheduling, unpaid work, and rates that effectively are below cost recovery”.
The study also showed that:
- One in 10 truck drivers work over 80 hours per week.
- One in six owner drivers say drivers can’t refuse an unsafe load
- 42% of owner drivers said the reason drivers do not report safety breaches was because of a fear of losing their jobs
A Safe Work Australia report in July 2015 showed:
- 31% of transport employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
- 20% of transport employers accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
- 20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.
- Senate report on road safety
In October the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee approved a report recommending industry-led talks to set up an independent body on “supply chain standards and accountability as well as sustainable, safe rates for the transport industry”.
- Transport company insolvencies: the full ASIC report.