We are seeing an unacceptable number of deaths as the result of speeding, fatigue and poor maintenance caused by employers setting lunatic deadlines and keeping trucks on the road too long. A 2012 industry survey of drivers in the biggest supply chain, Coles, showed that 46 per cent of drivers felt economic pressure to skip rest breaks, 28 per cent felt pressure to speed and 26 per cent felt pressure to carry illegally overweight loads.
As the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has highlighted, Bureau of Statistics figures show there are plenty of people looking for work in the sector, but long hours, tight delivery deadlines and poor pay deter drivers from taking the jobs. Bringing in foreign drivers unfamiliar with Australian roads and road rules, and under unreasonable deadline pressures, risks an increase in the number of accidents involving heavy vehicles.
There is no shortage of Australian drivers. The underemployment data at August 2013 shows that 34,500 people were looking for work in transport, postal and logistics. As acting national secretary of TWU, Michael Kaine, says, “This is not an industry that is one that there's a shortage of people looking for work, this is an industry that needs to get those pressures lifted so that there's an attraction and retention rate in the industry for drivers”.
The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was established to address these pressures and to mitigate safety issues in the Australian road transport industry and on our roads. It should be retained, rather than abolished as the Liberal Government wants to do, and we should continue to employ Australian drivers and give them decent wages and conditions. Cheap food and other supermarket items aren’t so cheap if it’s a member of your family involved in the next truck crash.