Adding in­sult to in­jury

The NSW au­thor­i­ties’ an­swer to road trans­port’s high ca­su­alty num­bers? Fine more truck driv­ers!

Owner Driver - - Twu - Michael Kaine

HOW MANY FUNER­ALS WILL IT TAKE? How many wage ripoffs or non-pay­ment of su­per will it take? How many own­er­driver busi­nesses go­ing to the wall? How many truck driver sui­cides? How many crises does our in­dus­try have to en­dure be­fore the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment takes note and does some­thing?

By any stan­dards, these past cou­ple of years have been tough for driv­ers. We’ve seen the deaths and in­juries from truck crashes go up, with an al­most 10 per cent jump to Septem­ber last year over­all. While other in­dus­tries are see­ing a de­crease in work­place deaths, deaths among driv­ers is go­ing up – over 30 per cent of all worker deaths in­volve a trans­port worker.

Some hor­rific crashes have prompted empty, in­sult­ing and mis­guided re­sponses from politi­cians. We heard from the New South Wales roads min­is­ter about how the best way to tackle truck crashes was to give driv­ers elec­tric shocks to stop them from fall­ing asleep at the wheel.

We saw the cav­alry rush out in the form of the NSW Po­lice and Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices fin­ing driv­ers and forc­ing them to cop the blame for the prob­lems in the in­dus­try.

UN­REA­SON­ABLE PRES­SURE

Driv­ers re­sponded in force when the Trans­port Work­ers Union put up a sur­vey on­line. Of the more than 1,000 driv­ers who filled out the sur­vey, 93 per cent said pres­sure was con­tin­u­ing or in­creas­ing.

“It is a pity they did not tar­get the en­tire sup­ply chain, from pro­duc­ers right through to the re­tail sales, and have a good look at the un­rea­son­able pres­sures and work con­di­tions that they place upon driv­ers,” said one driver.

Did the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment reach out to driv­ers at that point and of­fer to lis­ten to them and hear their views? Did they make any over­tures that they would ad­dress con­cerns? Did they even ad­mit there was a prob­lem? They most cer­tainly did not.

In fact, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has done its ut­most to pre­tend that ev­ery­thing in trans­port is just fine.

They have ig­nored the pres­sure driv­ers are un­der, they have been silent when the deaths and in­juries got out of hand, and they have stood by while busi­nesses go un­der be­cause of a lack of min­i­mum rates. They have al­lowed wealthy re­tail­ers like Aldi to refuse to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the role they play in mak­ing the roads less safe and to dic­tate terms and con­di­tions to driv­ers and trans­port oper­a­tors which force them to strug­gle.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment have sadly been aided and abet­ted in their strat­egy of ig­nor­ing the cri­sis in our in­dus­try by el­e­ments in our in­dus­try, namely the likes of the Aus­tralian Truck­ing Association (ATA) and NatRoad. These or­gan­i­sa­tions have cho­sen to take the sides of wealthy clients and po­lit­i­cal mates over trans­port oper­a­tors and driv­ers. They refuse to ac­cept the deaths and in­juries are too high and in­stead brief me­dia that there is no prob­lem.

In an in­dus­try which has the high­est num­ber of work­place deaths, is it ac­cept­able for em­ployer groups to put out pub­lic state­ments chal­leng­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the is­sue? Driv­ers are not will­ing to al­low their prob­lems to be ig­nored in this way. They are fight­ing for their own sur­vival, the sur­vival of their mates and other road users, and for the sur­vival of their in­dus­try.

THE RIGHT RATE

Con­voys right across the na­tional cap­i­tals on July 15 came out in force to tell the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment loud and clear that they want wealthy clients to be held to ac­count for low rates, that they want an end to the high death and in­jury toll, and that they want de­cent, sus­tain­able jobs.

Owner-driv­ers, tip­pers, port oper­a­tors, waste driv­ers, con­crete truck driv­ers, couri­ers and van driv­ers made up the 300 work­ers from across the trans­port in­dus­try who took part in the con­voys.

Melbourne ports driver Greg on the con­voy said: “Driv­ers need to get paid the right rates to do their job. You need to be mak­ing enough money to pay your­self, and to ser­vice your ve­hi­cle. If you’re not mak­ing the money, you’re cut­ting cor­ners or you’re work­ing too long hours.”

Trans­port oper­a­tors are also cry­ing out for change be­cause they too are feel­ing the pres­sure. As many as one in five ad­mit to break­ing safety rules just to meet the dead­lines de­manded from com­pa­nies at the top of the sup­ply chain.

What our in­dus­try needs is an en­force­able – not vol­un­tary – sys­tem ap­ply­ing to the en­tire in­dus­try to en­sure wealthy clients pro­vide fair ten­der­ing pro­cesses and con­tracts to trans­port oper­a­tors. These clients must pay their fair share, they must pay in­voices within 14 to 30 days, and they must be held to ac­count when they breach stan­dards.

This for­mula will work to lift in­dus­try pres­sures. Blam­ing driv­ers and try­ing cheap po­lit­i­cal stunts just won’t work.

Truly ma­ture in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions don’t fight against or be­lit­tle mea­sures that will make a dif­fer­ence. It’s time for the ATA and NatRoad to get on board and help make our in­dus­try bet­ter.

The prob­lems in our in­dus­try have been ig­nored for too long. This is killing peo­ple and killing jobs. Driv­ers are ramp­ing up their ac­tions, de­ter­mined to see vi­tal changes hap­pen. To join their fight go to ww.safer­ates.org.au

Bot­tom: Part of the Syd­ney con­voy protest­ing against in­dus­try pres­sure and un­safe rates

Be­low: Driv­ers from many ar­eas of the truck­ing in­dus­try at­tended the July 15 protest con­voys

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