Be­ing held ac­count­able

Large penal­ties will soon ap­ply to all in the sup­ply chain who place truck driv­ers’ lives at risk

Owner Driver - - Nat Road - War­ren Clark

THE LAT­EST WORK­PLACE IN­JURY and fa­tal­ity sta­tis­tics re­leased by Safe Work Aus­tralia show that the road trans­port in­dus­try has the high­est fa­tal­ity rate of work­ers, at around 15 deaths per 100,000 work­ers, com­pared to other in­dus­tries. Al­though there has been a sig­nif­i­cant fall in the num­ber of worker fa­tal­i­ties in the road trans­port in­dus­try since 2007, there has been no fur­ther re­duc­tion over the last three years. The Bureau of In­fra­struc­ture, Trans­port and Re­gional Eco­nom­ics re­ports that 185 peo­ple died in crashes in­volv­ing heavy ve­hi­cles dur­ing 2017. These sta­tis­tics are un­ac­cept­able. Heavy ve­hi­cle oper­a­tors, the sup­ply chain, gov­ern­ments and all road users must work to­gether to reach a tar­get of zero deaths. The re-in­tro­duc­tion of so called ‘safe rates’ is not the an­swer.

From Oc­to­ber 1 this year, all mem­bers of the sup­ply chain will face sig­nif­i­cant penal­ties if their ac­tions or in­ac­tions put truck driv­ers at risk, com­pletely negat­ing ar­gu­ments for rein­tro­duc­ing min­i­mum freight rates in Aus­tralia. This was the mes­sage NatRoad de­liv­ered to the re­cent Se­nate Com­mit­tee hear­ing on the preven­tion, in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion of in­dus­trial deaths in Aus­tralia.


The Trans­port Work­ers’ Union (TWU) sub­mis­sion to this in­quiry stated that the abo­li­tion of the Road Safety Re­mu­ner­a­tion Tri­bunal – which es­tab­lished min­i­mum freight rates – has led to a gap in reg­u­la­tion of the road trans­port sec­tor, par­tic­u­larly in terms of hold­ing clients at the top of the trans­port sup­ply chains ac­count­able for the pres­sure they put on the in­dus­try. This claim holds no merit in light of the changes to the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law (HVNL), which in­clude new of­fences with in­creased penal­ties for sup­ply chain par­ties that di­rectly or in­di­rectly cause or en­cour­age a driver to ex­ceed a speed limit, breach fa­tigue rules, or con­tra­vene any other as­pect of the HVNL.

When giv­ing ev­i­dence be­fore the Com­mit­tee, NatRoad’s in­dus­try pol­icy ad­vi­sor Ju­lia Collins said set­ting min­i­mum pay­ment rates would not re­duce the fa­tal­ity rate, given that truck driv­ers are rarely at fault in heavy ve­hi­cle crashes.

“We want to see those who are pres­sur­ing driv­ers and cre­at­ing un­safe be­hav­iour face the full force of the new laws. At present, be­cause of the rel­a­tive sim­plic­ity of im­pos­ing fines at the road­side, driv­ers bear a dis­pro­por­tion­ate bur­den of sanc­tions for reg­u­la­tory breaches,” she said. “The new Chain of Re­spon­si­bil­ity re­quire­ments need time to be prop­erly im­ple­mented and en­forced and then eval­u­ated for their ef­fec­tive­ness be­fore any other reg­u­la­tion is con­sid­ered.”

The ex­pe­ri­ences of NatRoad mem­bers in­di­cate that a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of en­force­ment is fo­cused on mi­nor tech­ni­cal is­sues that are not crit­i­cal to en­sur­ing safety. In ad­di­tion, heavy ve­hi­cle in­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions are man­aged in very dis­parate ways across nu­mer­ous gov­ern­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing po­lice. This cre­ates a sig­nif­i­cant gap in the data on causal fac­tors re­lated to se­ri­ous in­jury and fa­tal crashes.

To date, the main fo­cus of truck crash in­ves­ti­ga­tions and data col­lec­tion has been on the im­me­di­ate causes re­lat­ing to un­safe driver be­hav­iours such as in­ap­pro­pri­ate speed, fa­tigue and drug use. This is a flawed ap­proach be­cause truck crashes can be an out­come of mul­ti­ple, in­ter­act­ing fac­tors within the broader trans­port and sup­ply chain sys­tem.

NatRoad has called for a ded­i­cated, in­de­pen­dent author­ity such as the Aus­tralian Trans­port Safety Bureau (ATSB) to be re­spon­si­ble for in­ves­ti­gat­ing all se­ri­ous truck ac­ci­dents.

The find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions should be re­ported pub­licly so that ac­tions by in­dus­try and the gov­ern­ment to re­duce the road toll are not mis­di­rected.

As a gen­eral prin­ci­ple, de­sign­ing our roads and ve­hi­cles to be safer is more ef­fec­tive than re­ly­ing on driver be­hav­iour.

Pri­or­ity should be given to how we can ‘de­sign out’ in­her­ent haz­ards or min­imise hu­man er­ror us­ing tech­nol­ogy and en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tions.

“Driv­ers bear a dis­pro­por­tion­ate bur­den of sanc­tions for reg­u­la­tory breaches.”

WAR­REN CLARK, NatRoad’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, has more than 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence lead­ing and de­vel­op­ing busi­ness for emerg­ing com­pa­nies. War­ren has held the po­si­tion of CEO at var­i­ous com­pa­nies and is a cer­ti­fied char­tered ac­coun­tant.

BE­LOW: NatRoad CEO War­ren Clark met with Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Michael McCor­mack on July 24 to dis­cuss the up­com­ing amend­ments to the HVNL

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