Land­mark study no sur­prise

Those in in­dus­try knew

Big Rigs - - COLUMN - TWU NEWS RICHARD OLSEN TWU NSW State Sec­re­tary

YET an­other new study sup­ports what we’ve been say­ing for years.

A land­mark 12-year study con­ducted by Monash Uni­ver­sity re­cently made the news.

It was un­der­taken in part­ner­ship with the Trans­port Work­ers’ Union and Lin­fox Lo­gis­tics, but the re­search was in­de­pen­dently con­ducted.

Its find­ings were con­sid­ered shock­ing to the me­dia and the gen­eral pub­lic.

It was hotly dis­cussed on prime-time TV and talk-back ra­dio, and was re­garded by most com­men­ta­tors as a wake-up call for the in­dus­try.

But none of it comes as much of a sur­prise to truck driv­ers, or to us.

The study’s re­search found that driv­ing a truck is the most dan­ger­ous job in Aus­tralia.

That truck driv­ers had a 13 times higher risk of dy­ing at work than other Aus­tralian work­ers, as well as a higher risk of ill­ness, psy­cho­log­i­cal stress and other in­juries.

That three quar­ters of truck driver fa­tal­i­ties were due to crashes.

That driv­ers will take an av­er­age of five weeks off work due to work-re­lated mus­cu­loskele­tal in­juries – the most com­mon form of in­jury for truck driv­ers – and an av­er­age of 10 weeks off for work-re­lated men­tal health con­di­tions.

I quote di­rectly from the re­port’s over­view:

“Long­haul truck driv­ers may be ex­posed to mul­ti­ple risk fac­tors in their work­place in­clud­ing long work­ing hours, seden­tary roles, poor ac­cess to nu­tri­tious food, so­cial iso­la­tion, shift work, time pres­sure, low lev­els of job con­trol, and fa­tigue. A study con­ducted by Mac­quarie Uni­ver­sity, which sur­veyed 559 truck driv­ers, found that a high pro­por­tion of par­tic­i­pants re­ported work­ing long hours car­ry­ing un­safe loads. More than 10 per cent of truck driv­ers stated that they worked more than 80 hours a week and over 80 per cent re­ported work­ing more than 50 hours per week.”

We’ve been say­ing this for years in our cam­paign for change, only for it to fall on deaf ears at a govern­ment level. Com­pre­hen­sive and con­sis­tent re­search shows that eco­nomic pres­sure is over­whelm­ingly the big­gest fac­tor con­tribut­ing to poor driver health and road safety out­comes.

A 2010 sur­vey by the US Na­tional In­sti­tute for Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health came to this con­clu­sion, as did a 2008 re­port by the Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion in Aus­tralia.

In 2015, truck­ing em­ploy­ers, labour or­gan­i­sa­tions and 25 in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ments went one step fur­ther, sign­ing a mo­men­tous, tri­par­tite global con­sen­sus agree­ment at the In­ter­na­tional Labour Of­fice in Geneva, which said that they all agreed on the facts: that low rates of pay for heavy ve­hi­cle driv­ers are linked to dan­ger­ous road safety out­comes.

Even the Turn­bull Govern­ment’s own 2016 Re­view of the Road Safety Re­mu­ner­a­tion Sys­tem found this – but they shut down the in­de­pen­dent road safety watch­dog any­way.

This is a mat­ter of life and death, and that is why we con­tinue to cam­paign for Safe Rates leg­is­la­tion that re­moves that dan­ger­ous eco­nomic pres­sure and en­sures there is ac­count­abil­ity at ev­ery level of the sup­ply chain.

How many more stud­ies will the Fed­eral Govern­ment need be­fore it fi­nally comes to the ta­ble? And how many more peo­ple will die be­fore that day comes?

PHOTO: KIRSTIN PAYNE

STUDY’S FIND­INGS: The find­ings of the Monash Uni­ver­sity study have shocked the pub­lic.

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