A fatality on the Gateway Motorway at Drewvale this afternoon is yet another tragic reminder of the dangers that transport workers face every day.
Transport Workers’ Union Queensland Secretary Peter Biagini has today called on the Federal Government to address the crisis in the transport industry, with Safe Work Australia figures showing that the transport sector experienced the most fatalities in 2016, and the most deaths since the start of 2017.
“Every day, drivers are under pressure on the road” said Biagini.
“Today’s fatality comes after the same sort of incident occured in New South Wales last week, and the figures from Safe Work Australia are another reminder of the responsibility and danger that transport workers take on while keeping Australia moving”
“The only tribunal that had the power to effectively influence road safety in Australia was ripped away by the Turnbull Government, and we are continuing to see the ongoing effects of that”
The Transport Workers’ Union is calling on all road users to take care on the roads, and calling on the Federal Government to launch an urgent inquiry into the crisis in the transport industry in Australia which will deliver real outcomes for transport workers, holding clients accountable in the supply chain.
Media Contact: Tom Millroy 0411 875 910
Research Compiled by TWU National Office
- Safe Fair Rates
On April 18th, the Federal Government abolished a system backing safe rates that was holding wealthy clients such as retailers, banks, oil companies and ports to account for low cost contracts, which do not allow their goods to be delivered safely. This was despite the Government’s own reports showing a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28%*. An Order delivering safe rates for the first time was in operation for just two weeks before the entire system was torn down.
- Evidence of pressure
A Safe Work Australia report in July 2015 showed
- 31% of employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
- 20% accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
- 20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.
- Low pay
Many owner drivers are not making enough to get by as it is with average income of just under $29,500 and $29% of them underpaid (this is based on an analysis by PriceWaterhouseCoopers of the 2006 census which was included in the regulatory impact statement for the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011). Transport companies are consistently in the top five industries for insolvency, with the vast majority of them small firms with five or less full-time employees.
According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, transport operators have one of the highest rates of insolvencies of any industry and small firms of five full time employees or less are the most likely to go bankrupt. In the financial year to June 2015 there were 275 insolvencies among these small operators. In the financial year before that there were 548 insolvencies. The main reason for the insolvencies was inadequate cash flow.
Suicide is currently rampant among truck drivers. A study by Deakin University showed 323 truck drivers committed suicide between 2001 and 2010. (Suicide among male road and rail drivers in Australia: a retrospective mortality study). An analysis by the Victorian coroner’s court showing truck drivers had the highest number of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.
- The Liberal Party and its financial donors
The Liberal National Party receives billions of dollars in donations from retailers, banks and oil companies – which were all in line to be held to account for safety and poor rates in trucking by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. A financial link of $7 million exists between the Liberal National Party and Wesfarmers, the major retailer which opposes the Tribunal. Of this there is a $5.3 million link in the form of dividends drawn down from Wesfarmers shares owned by the Cormack Foundation, an associated entity of the Liberal Party. A further $1.7 million in political donations was given by Wesfarmers and Coles to the Liberal and National parties.
* PricewaterhouseCoopers “Review of the Road Safety Remuneration System Final Report January 2016” (PWC Review 2016 – published by the Commonwealth Department of Employment on 1 April, 2016)