Richmond MP Justine Elliot has taken aim at a federal government plan to abolish a national truck authority, saying it will threaten more drivers’ lives especially on north coast roads.
So far this year there have been 21 truck-related fatalities on north coast roads, out of a total of 44 in the state.
They include three horrendous accidents on the Pacific Highway in our area: a truck driver killed after he lost control of his car at Ballina; a 71 year-old man killed and two others injured when a truck and car collided at Tyndale; and two people killed after a collision between a truck and two cars at Woodburn.
Ms Elliot says this number would be higher were it not for the federal road safety watchdog, the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT).
She called for the retention of the body after meeting with local truck drivers and Transport Workers Union members at her office yesterday.
‘Truck driving is Australia’s most dangerous job, with 330 people killed every year in truck smashes,’ Ms Elliot said.
‘Truck drivers are 15 times more likely to be killed at work than any other industry,’ she added.
The RSRT is a national watchdog which intervenes when transport industry clients use economic pressure to force drivers to speed, skip rest breaks or illegally overload their vehicles in order to meet unrealistic delivery deadlines.
Following reports that large supermarket chains push their suppliers to cut corners and break rules to meet unrealistic delivery schedules, Ms Elliot said the body was more needed than ever.
‘A new poll by Essential Research shows 73 per cent of Australians believe companies such as Coles that put economic pressure on truck drivers to drive longer and faster should be held accountable for the impact this has on road safety.
‘This new data shows the importance of road safety to ordinary Australians, with 62 per cent supporting the tribunal, and nearly half of respondents wanting to see the RSRT’s safety powers strengthened.
‘We need a greater focus on road safety in this country, not a weaker one. The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal needs to be preserved,’ Ms Elliot said.
Northern NSW TWU sub branch Secretary Mick Forbes said many drivers in the transport industry face economic pressure from major clients to drive too fast or too long and in poorly maintained vehicles.
‘I’ve been a professional driver for decades and I’ve seen first-hand how dangerous this industry is. Every driver knows speed and fatigue are the major causes of crashes,’ Mr Forbes said.
‘We’ve seen clients – major companies like Coles – squeeze their supply chain, and sweat their vehicles and drivers,’ he added.
A 2012 industry survey of Coles found 46 per cent of drivers reported economic pressure to skip rest breaks; 28 per cent were pressured to speed; and 26 per cent were pressured to carry illegally overweight loads.
‘When drivers aren’t paid enough to maintain their vehicles or earn a decent living, they get pressured into speeding, driving for too long, skipping breaks and carrying overweight loads just to make ends meet.
‘The RSRT is designed to stop that pressure, so it’s critical that the government leaves it alone to get on with this job.’