Lives at risk if truck safety body abolished: MP

Local truck driver Richard Foster at yesterday's meeting together with Justine Elliot MP and TWU's Mick Forbes.

Local truck driver Richard Foster at yesterday’s meeting together with Justine Elliot MP and TWU’s Mick Forbes.

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.’

3 responses to “Lives at risk if truck safety body abolished: MP”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    There have been 21 truck-related fatalities on the north coast out of a total of 44 for the whole state of NSW.
    Logic therefore says that on the north coast, freight has to be got to a certain place quicker with tighter point to point times. Trucks are timed I think from point to point by the RTA. It could be that drivers are not having enough rest between loads and this results in the driver’s mind wandering or relaxing during a drive.
    Of course these accidents were predicted before B-Doubles were introduced, so just who is surprised. A B-Double takes extra braking, and the main braking must take place from the back of the vehicle or there is a jack-knife. The main braking can not take place at the rear of the vehicle as the load under braking pushes the load forward so the main braking has to be at the front. There is an inherent problem with B-Doubles under braking as the connection between the truck and the rear tender, pushes and pulls according to the road camber and braking. The death figures are for trucks, when the figures should be complied for trucks and B-Doubles with a comparison of the two statistics. With trucks there has been 21 people dead on the north coast. And what is the economic cost of that death list to the trucking company, to families and relatives and to the community?
    Is it worth it that a commodity in a supermarket is 5cents cheaper because the product arrived on time according to the limit of time the driver had to deliver the commodity. Who bears the cost of the 21 dead people and the funerals and the grieving?
    The community of the north coast of NSW. Rail should be considered to transport goods to the north coast when truck deaths are increasing.
    A very fast train has been mooted from Brisbane south to Sydney and Melbourne. Why has it been mooted when the cost of the establishment of that high-speed train is astronomical.
    Why is it so? It is so because of the same logic with the trucks. The driver has to be in two places at once. That is the pace of modern life.

  2. Ivan Ransom says:

    In its insane ideological hatred of unions and reasonable livelihoods of common working people, the current Federal Government has moved to trash yet another of its regulatory bodies so hated by the Ayn Rand devotees. Rip away any vestiges of protection for ordinary people and you leave them to the ravages of profiteers, scammers and psychopaths, victimising, in this case, not only the hapless truck-drivers, but all other users of the highway and back-roads. This is government licensed lawlessness and where there is no law, someone sooner or later will take the law into their own hands. The end-game of Tea-party Politics is the Wild West.

  3. Len Heggarty says:

    I was a bread vendor a long time ago with a truck and I had to get the bread from Southport to Tweed.
    The worst days were the wet day. Pouring down rain, the traffic got slower and you got slower taking it easy to be safe and you watch the brakes and the tyres. So you run later than usual.
    You get to your shops and you get the tirade in the ear from the shopkeeper.
    “You’re late. Don’t you know I have customers here waiting.”

    Yes, in my mind I was dying to get there but not in the spilled blood type of ‘dying to get there’ if i did not drive to the conditions of the road in pouring rain.
    No one cares if you die on the road …. to get anywhere. Truckies need to care for themselves in a union.

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