Industry slams TWU ads linking RSRT to child deaths

ATA, SARTA, ASBFEO angered by union adverts linking the death of children with truck drivers

Industry slams TWU ads linking RSRT to child deaths
TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon.


A number of trucking bodies have taken aim at the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) over its latest series of advertisements that link the removal of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) with the death of children on local roads.

Unveiled on Friday, the adverts place a family in a car in the path of a fatigued truck driver, who, the TWU says, is "under pressure to meet an unrealistic deadline."

The television and radio advertisements have angered a number of industry members, including the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), and Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell.

Describing the campaign as "exploiting children to make their claims," ATA chair Noelene Watson says they ignore the independent reports showing the RSRO had no proven safety link.

"The TWU knows there is no proven link between price fixing and safety, so they have resorted to the disgraceful tactic," Watson says.

"Even the figures the TWU used to support the RSRT’s introduction in the first place were flawed."

The ATA chair says the penalties for drivers and operators under the TWU scenario could include fines up to $3 million and jail terms up to five years.

"The truth is that we’ve made great strides in improving the trucking industry’s safety," Watson says.

Carnell, who is currently investigating the impact of the RSRT’s Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 (RSRO) on owner-drivers, has stronger words for the TWU, describing the ads as a "a reprehensible tactic and one that completely misrepresents the issue surrounding pay rates in the trucking industry."

"It is deceitful, not to mention offensive to the thousands of mum and dad owner-drivers out there, many of whom have been forced to the wall financially as a result of the recent Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT) Payments Order," she says.

"These owner-drivers have loved ones to support, and to suggest they’re putting children’s lives in danger by going out and doing an honest days’ work to provide for their families is reprehensible."

When unveiling the ads, TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon suggested "voters need to be aware that the Liberal and National Parties do not believe the death toll in truck crashes warrants a proper solution."

"They deny there is a link between safety and financial pressure on transport companies and drivers causing them to speed, drive long hours and drive fatigued."

The TWU secretary says this is a case of a government "failing to prioritise road safety over support for their rich donors". 

The industry bodies deny the TWU’s link, pointing to the 80 per cent decline in crash rates over the past 20 years, and direct their thoughts to advancing safety technology and Performance Based Standards (PBS) for heavy vehicles and trailers.

The TWU critics also suggest the RSRO unfairly targetted the owner-driver segment of the industry, one that doesn’t fall under the union’s umbrella and one that isn’t overly represented in crash statistics.

The correlation between owner-drivers and crash statistics has been countered by industry economist and academic Kim Hassall, who says the owner-driver sector represents 17 per cent of the insured portfolio and has almost an equivalent percentage of claims, being just 18 per cent.

In its response to the TWU adverts, SARTA’s executive director Steve Shearer says the numbers also need to represent those who are at fault for the crashes.

"The TWU knows that their own SA Labor Government proved, in a report released by Road Safety Minister, Michael O'Brien in 2013; that 74 per cent of fatal car-truck crashes are caused by the motorists involved, not by the truck driver," Shearer says.

"Yet the TWU is using an advertisement showing two kids in a car crashing with a truck and then they claim a massive number of resultant deaths without recognising that 74 per cent of those were not caused by the truck driver.

"Then incredibly they want the public to fall for their absolutely baseless assertion that ‘safe rates’ would have saved those lives.

"Clearly there is no close relationship between the TWU and the truth."

In a shot back at the union, the SARTA chief has asked where the RSRT funding has gone.

"The TWU was granted over $200,000 under the former Labor government to promote the RSRT and they produce absolutely nothing," he says.

"Are they now using those funds to pay for their advertisements?"



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