Union accuses the Federal Government of going MIA during horror year
Australia’s horrific truck driver death toll has doubled in 2021, with the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) pointing the finger at Federal Government inaction for failing to end the deadly industry pressures killing truck drivers on our roads.
The TWU cites the 2021 truck crash death toll which reached mid-way through December 2021, including 50 truck drivers. While the overall number of truck crash deaths remains steady in comparison to the 148 deaths last year, truck driver deaths have doubled from 26 in 2020.
According to the union, the Christmas-like demand as a result of the pandemic smashed road transport supply chains, with truck drivers under immense pressure to keep goods moving to unrealistic deadlines. This pressure from wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top pushes drivers to take more risks on the road, including driving tired and overloading, the TWU says.
The updated death toll figures come following the tragic death of a 49-year-old driver killed in a two-truck smash on the Pacific Highway in New South Wales on December 14. Earlier this year, police said fatigue likely contributed to both a ‘horrific’ fiery crash which killed two drivers south of Port Macquarie, and a devastating roll over which killed a truck driver in Lameroo, South Australia.
The 2021 death toll figures follow a recent TWU survey of 1,100 truck drivers which show an industry in crisis, with almost one in two drivers knowing someone killed on the job. The TWU has accused employers of pressuring one in four drivers to work beyond legal hours and drive tired, and one in five had been pressured to speed to meet unrealistic deadlines.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the carnage on Australian roads would only get worse without urgent Federal Government intervention.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those we’ve lost in 2021,” he says. “2021 has been a year like no other.
“Wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top are wringing supply chains dry and pushing drivers to their very limits in their deadly pursuit of profit. Drivers have never been more stressed and less rested, and these figures show the devastating impact in black and white.
“Our highways are a blood bath and the Federal Government’s nowhere to be seen.
“Scott Morrison’s put truckie safety in the too hard basket, ignoring an industry-supported Senate report calling for an independent body to set and enforce minimum rates in the industry for months,” Kaine said.
“The Prime Minister has failed transport workers, and this Government has blood on its hands as a result.”
Five years ago, the Federal Government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which the TWU says was dedicated to investigating safety and regulating payment arrangements to reduce the financial pressure on truck drivers.
The Union says the Federal Government justified abolishing the tribunal because of its “significant cost to the economy … with any potential safety benefits significantly outweighed by the associated costs”.
The tribunal’s annual funding was $4 million. Research shows heavy vehicle crashes cost $4.64 billion a year. Since then, 228 truck drivers have been killed on the job, the TWU reports.
According to the TWU its accident figures are arrived at through its in-house database which collects info about truck-involved crashes, including fatalities, injuries and potential causes, drawn mostly from media reports.