Illawarra lives 'at risk' if road safety watchdog axed
Federal MPs Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones have been updated by the TWU on the danger of more people being injured or killed on Illawarra roads if the Federal Government succeeded in abolishing Australia's road safety watchdog - the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
The Tribunal is proposed for abolition when parliament resumes later this year. Some Liberal MPs have described the Tribunal as 'red tape' despite its critical role on road safety.
Bird and Jones joined local truck drivers and union leaders in Wollongong to call for the Tribunal to continue its work.
'Most dangerous' job
"Truck driving is Australia's most dangerous job, with 330 people killed every year in truck smashes," Bird said.
"We need a greater focus on road safety in this country, not a weaker one. The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal needs to be preserved."
"Truck drivers are 15 times more likely to be killed at work than people in trades like construction, mining or law enforcement," Stephen Jones said.
The RSRT is a national watchdog which intervenes when trucking clients use economic pressure to force drivers to speed, skip rest breaks or illegally overload their vehicles in order to meet unrealistic delivery deadlines.
Local truck driver Jeff Moses said he knew drivers who were forced to speed or overload their vehicles just to keep their jobs, or who had skipped rest breaks to stay behind the wheel to meet unrealistic delivery times.
"Every driver knows speed and fatigue are the major causes of accidents," Moses said.
"No one wants to risk their own or anyone else's life.
"When drivers aren't paid enough to maintain their vehicles or earn a decent living, they get pressured into speeding, 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."
TWU South Coast and Southern Secretary Nick McIntosh said many drivers face massive economic pressure from major clients – to drive too fast or too long, in poorly maintained vehicles.
"We've seen clients – major companies – squeeze their supply chain, and sweat their vehicles and drivers," McIntosh said.
"And that means more dangers to drivers and those around them, and more deaths on our roads."
A 2012 industry survey of one major supply chain - Coles - found:
- 46 per cent of drivers reported economic pressure to skip rest breaks
- 28 per cent were pressured to speed
- 26 per cent were pressured to carry illegally overweight loads
Comments from drivers taking part in the survey include:
- "I skip brakes maintenance because we don't have enough hours to complete our work " (outer Brisbane)
- "Loads are often overweight but you can't afford to say no to the job." (Victoria)
- "The boss said if we miss the delivery windows we may as well kiss the contract goodbye." (Tasmania)
Bird and Jones said the Opposition would work with community groups and minor parties in the Senate to block any repeal of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, and help prevent further fatalities involving heavy vehicles.
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