There is immense competitive pressure on truckies to meet tight deadlines, which often leads them to speed and to use ‘speed’ in order to stay awake for long hauls. While heavy vehicles only comprise around 3% of Australian road traffic, truckies are involved in more than 15% of traffic fatalities with over 200 truck drivers dying each year.
An inquiry by the National Transport Commission in 2008 found that there was a conclusive “link between safety outcomes and truck driver pay rates or methods”. As a result, in 2012 the Gillard government established the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) with the aim of making the trucking industry somewhat safer by setting minimum wages.
However, in April the Turnbull government abolished the RSRT, with the support of independents in the Senate. They claim that the “deeply flawed” RSRT would force some ‘mum and dad’ owner-operators to go out of business as they would need to charge clients more than the standard market rates.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has described these claims as a “myth”, stating: “Our roads will now see more deaths, more fatalities, and more owner-drivers and employees exploited”. A poll commissioned by the TWU found that only 12% of Australians support the abolition of the RSRT.
By Greg Bradshaw