NZ fatigue prosecution sparks call for safe rates

New Zealand transport union uses recent prosecution of a trucking company to push for Australian-style safe rates scheme

January 22, 2013

A New Zealand transport union is using the recent prosecution of a trucking company for breaching fatigue laws to push for an Australian-style safe rates scheme.

The FIRST Union says the $21,000 fine handed to Dibble Transport shows more needs to be done to improve the safety of truck drivers.

Dibble Transport admitted to the Te Awamutu District Court its drivers did not comply with work and rest requirements. 3 News reported drivers working for the Waikato-based firm travelled up to 1,000km a day with only 4.5 hours of rest between shifts. Company drivers were fined between $200 and $350 each and banned from driving for one month, 3 News reports.

"Many truck drivers are owner-operators and their margins are constantly squeezed, leading them to take risks and compromise the safety of themselves and others on the road," FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid says.

"New Zealand needs to follow Australia’s lead, which last year brought in stronger laws to make sure truck drivers do not have remuneration-related incentives to work in an unsafe manner."

Australia introduced the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) on July 1 last year. The tribunal can investigate sectors to see if their transport practices encourage drivers and operators to break the law. The RSRT can issue orders mandating remuneration and remuneration-related conditions.

"New Zealanders work some of the longest hours in the world. Fatigue is the silent killer and maimer of workers across many industries, including very dangerous ones such as road transport and forestry," Reid says.

The New Zealand Transport Agency says truck drivers must rest for at least 30 minutes after 5.5 hours of work. It says drivers are permitted to work 13 hours a day and then must take 10 hours of rest.

"Drivers can accumulate work time of up to 70 hours before they must take a break of at least 24 hours," the transport department says.

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