As I write this column, I have just looked up the statistics; I can see we are up to 36 deaths this year alone, 36 truck drivers who have died at work since the start of 2022.
The statistics kept by the Transport Workers Union show that 58 truck drivers have died at work since Senator Sterle shared his inquiry’s recommendations with the previous government.
The number increases the further back you go across the years.
Safe Work Australia remind us that this industry is one of the deadliest in Australia; they are backing up the statistics.
The family and friends of every truck driver who dies at work are the ones still wondering why and how the industry has been left in this state for so long. Governments owe the many families who are in mourning an explanation as to why our industry is still over-achieving when it comes to deaths at work.
October is National Safe Work Month and we are reminded of the need for the solution that takes the pressure off the truck drivers who are forced to drive too long or too fast to make a deadline.
When profits are squeezed, operators are pressured through their cost burdens like Transurban toll road costs and fuel costs to delay maintenance, skip rest breaks and drive fatigued. Drivers lose their lives. That is work health and safety under attack.
We must get behind the federal government plan to give the Fair Work Commission the ability to set standards to support cost recovery, supply chain accountability and a fair, safe and sustainable industry.
Level standards for transport workers mean a fairer and safer industry, level standards take the pressure off those behind the wheel. This enforcement of industry standards has been called for by workers, clients, employers, industry groups and gig companies.
Over 130 years ago, owner-drivers, those who were carters and draymen founded the union based on the principal of better standards for the work they do.
We are still taking that fight on, not just through our branch offices and Officials, but through our thousands of transport workers, owner-drivers and employees who are standing together to win a better deal for themselves and their families.
Those members coming together, united, ensure we can hold wealthy supermarkets, oil companies, manufacturers and retailers at the top of supply chains to account for truckies’ astronomical operating costs and operating standards.
Truck driving is the work that keeps our country moving, but the stark reality of exploitation, undercutting and a lack of standards means that the pressure never lets up.
Decades of independent research has shown that unsafe rates are a significant cause of fatal truck crashes which kill too many workers every year.
It’s pleasing that the industry is taking part for a future that means a transport worker has a stronger chance of getting home safely, properly paid, paid on time, with the costs recovery enabled for every hour, every kilometre, every part of doing the job.
That is what we are fighting for. Are you on board?
Richard Olsen is the NSW/Qld TWU state secretary.