Present cri­sis

TWU on the af­ter­math of Fair­fax in­ves­ti­ga­tions

Big Rigs - - INDUSTRY OPINION - Tony Shel­don TWU Na­tional Sec­re­tary

THE CRI­SIS in our in­dus­try was brought into sharp fo­cus re­cently with a Fair­fax Me­dia in­ves­ti­ga­tion shin­ing a spot­light on truck­ing.

The in-depth re­port high­lighted is­sues that drivers face every sin­gle day, but that em­ployer groups and gov­ern­ments like to ig­nore.

The re­port high­lighted the in­crease in deaths from truck crashes adding: “Trucks kill a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of peo­ple. Heavy trucks make up 2.4 per cent of all reg­is­tered ve­hi­cles in Aus­tralia, ac­count for 7 per cent of all road kilo­me­tres trav­elled and yet are in­volved in 16 per cent of road crash fa­tal­i­ties.”

It listed a litany of fail­ings in­clud­ing ve­hi­cles over­loaded, ve­hi­cles not main­tained prop­erly, drivers un­der pres­sure to drive long hours and speed, and driv­ing schools giv­ing truck­ing li­cences with­out ad­e­quate train­ing.

“Fa­tigue and speed­ing are still the of­fi­cial causes of truck­ing ac­ci­dents, but speak to drivers and they’ll tell you the real killer is pres­sure – pres­sure from the boss, pres­sure to keep your clap shut about safety and pres­sure to keep mov­ing,” states the ar­ti­cles.

The re­ac­tion of em­ployer groups and the Fed­eral Govern­ment to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed they have their heads firmly stuck in the sand over the cri­sis we are fac­ing.

Em­ployer groups were also silent on the role they and their own mem­bers are play­ing in rip­ping drivers off and pil­ing pres­sure on them, de­spite some of these truck­ing com­pa­nies be­ing named in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

One trans­port com­pany which fea­tured in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was a Leo­cata, based in Tatura.

Their for­mer driver was in­ter­viewed about be­ing forced to drive long hours which were not recorded in his log­book.

“He was even­tu­ally stood down and fired. He be­lieves he paid the price for speak­ing out about safety,” says the Fair­fax ar­ti­cle.

❝ The real is­sue for drivers and trans­port op­er­a­tors is what can be done to al­le­vi­ate pres­sure on an in­dus­try clearly be­ing fi­nan­cially squeezed by wealthy clients at the top.

Yet as­so­ci­a­tion groups have still made no men­tion of tack­ling com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing its own mem­bers, which game the sys­tem.

The ATA, Road Freight NSW and the Fed­eral Govern­ment in re­sponse cited the new Chain of Re­spon­si­bil­ity laws – de­spite these laws hav­ing failed mis­er­ably to date.

When a trans­port com­pany like Blen­ners which had 742 charges laid against it over fa­tigue and Chain of Re­spon­si­bil­ity breaches ends up walk­ing away with every charge dropped, it is clear that this sys­tem it sim­ply not work­ing.

The clients in the case also es­caped any charges. But the drivers at the com­pany didn’t walk away – they copped the en­tire blame – with $65,000 in fines laid against 45 drivers.

This is clearly not an ef­fec­tive way of ad­dress­ing the pres­sure in truck­ing.

The real is­sue for drivers and trans­port op­er­a­tors is what can be done to al­le­vi­ate pres­sure on an in­dus­try clearly be­ing fi­nan­cially squeezed by wealthy clients at the top.

Some em­ployer groups refuse to recog­nise this prob­lem and op­pose any mea­sures hold­ing clients to ac­count.

But drivers are adamant that this is the best way to tackle many of the prob­lems in trans­port – and they are cam­paign­ing against the likes of Aldi for bet­ter ac­count­abil­ity and safer roads.


RACE TO THE BOT­TOM: TWU con­tin­ues its protests at Aldi stores.

OPIN­ION: Tony Shel­don, Na­tional Sec­re­tary of the Trans­port Work­ers Union

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