IF you’ve ever leaned slightly to the right in your driver’s seat as a massive truck hurtles past, you can perhaps put it down to good instincts.
They’re big, and when they hit, the damage is pretty much relative to size.
At any time of the night or day, throughout Yarra Ranges as in any other part of Australia, trucks are the primary means of transporting goods – in and out of what is a major agricultural region.
Most towns now have major supermarkets and other retail outlets with goods coming in from all over Australia and overseas.
Likewise, we’re home to truck drivers, some of them long-haul, some owner-drivers, some driving as an employee.
Many of them travel long hours to all parts of Australia.
Most, drive responsibly, but one aspect of the trucking industry, pressure to drive long hours, has come under fire from the Transport Workers’ Union, which in December appealed for vigilance and after a spike in the number of deaths in truck crashes.
In five weeks, 23 people died in truck crashes, compared to 18 the year before.
The appeal came after they got a ruling from the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal issued a ruling setting down minimum safe rates for drivers in retail and long-distance.
This followed an early ruling requiring truck drivers be paid within 30 days.
Michael Kaine, acting national secretary of the TWU said they had voiced concern at increased pressure on truck drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines coming up to Christmas, but a Safe Work Australia report last July indicated that that pressure is not just confined to Christmas.
Mr Kaine said the pressure on drivers to speed, drive long hours and skip breaks in the lead-up to Christmas was getting worse.
“Drivers are fatigued and stressed out and truck crashes are on the increase,” he said.
“All road users need to be aware of this deadly pressure,” he said, and appealed at that time in particular to what he called ‘wealthy retailers’ to put a stop to the pressure and ensure their transport contracts allowed for their goods to be delivered safely.
He said with the road safety watchdog’s setting of minimum safe rates for drivers came another outcome, that retailers and manufacturers that use transport operators would be held to account for pressures on drivers.
“This ruling is a vital step to addressing the crisis in the road transport industry and it is encouraging that many transport operators are supporting it,” he said.
Evidence of pressure on which the TWU in basing its claims were drawn from the SWA July report which showed:
* 31 per cent of employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done.
* 20 per cent accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than two per cent in other industries.
* 20 per cent of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines, compared with just six per cent of employers in other industries.
The TWU says there are numerous studies that have established a link between safety and rates of pay, and quoted the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011, Regulation Impact Statement finding that 29 per cent of owner-drivers erre underpaid in the current remuneration system and that the average owner-driver income was $29,000.
What do our Yarra Ranges truck drivers make of the TWU concerns? Let us know on the Mail Facebook page, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone Kath Gannaway on 5957 3700.