TWU ups pressure on Govt to adopt fixed rates

Truck drivers’ union says Government must now implement a mandatory fixed rates scheme urgently

The truck drivers’ union says the Federal Government must now implement a mandatory fixed rates scheme as a matter of urgency.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is increasing pressure on the Government to respond to a report into payment schemes in the transport industry released last year, calling for all recommendations to be implemented.

The inquiry recommended a "national scheme for setting mandatory safe rates covering both employee and owner-drivers".

TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon says the issue is critical for all road users.

"This is the only way to ensure that the drivers across Australia have a safe working environment and are able to pay for maintenance of their vehicle and work for a rate of pay which does not force drivers into choosing between their job or putting food on the table and potentially being another road statistic," he says.

He says the trucking industry must cooperate to establish a fixed rates scheme.

But employer groups maintain ending kilometer-based pay schemes and introducing a fixed rates structure will not impact road safety.

A spokesperson for federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese was not immediately available for comment.

Sheldon was responding to a report last week quoting motoring bodies arguing an increase in road fatalities was the result of poor road infrastructure.

He says increased deaths in the trucking industry are the result of client pressure, not the roads.

"Infrastructure increases efficiencies but trucking companies and industry groups are failing to recognise, despite inquiry after inquiry, that too many of them and their member clients are the cause of these fatalities in the trucking industry," he says.

"With large transport clients such as Coles, Woolworths and Patrick dominating the industry and putting pressure on the contracting chain, forcing drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines under unsafe rates of pay, forces drivers to work longer just to make ends meet. Combined with speed and fatigue these are major factors in fatal incidents."

The TWU quotes figures showing 275 people died in heavy vehicle incidents in the 12 months up to March 2008.

Fatalities from heavy vehicle incidents alone increased by 19.7 percent in the lead-up to March, Sheldon says, and between 2000 and 2004 one in every five deaths on Australian roads involved heavy vehicles.

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