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Stronger law needed to address truck accidents & fatalities

May 21, 2013

Stronger law needed to address truck accidents and fatalities

The truck drivers’ union says dangerous work practices are embedded in the heavy vehicle industry and much stronger laws are needed to protect drivers.

Yesterday’s death and serious injury from the logging truck crash near Tolaga Bay comes as Australia and New Zealand police commence the annual Operation Austrans – targeting heavy vehicle road safety issues including fatigue, speed and use of stimulants.

New Zealand needed to consider Australia’s recent law change to stop truck drivers having pay systems that incentivised dangerous practice, said Karl Andersen, Transport & Logistics Secretary for FIRST Union.

“Our heavy vehicle industry is structured in a way that encourages unsafe practices. Many truck drivers are owner-operators and their margins are constantly squeezed, leading to drivers taking short cuts, running bald tires, breaking driver regulations, and in some cases using stimulants to get through. Fatigue is a very real issue for many drivers.”

Australia’s road safety law is much stronger that the chain of responsibility provisions in New Zealand law, Karl Andersen said.

“Last year Australia brought in a new law to try and stamp out remuneration-related incentives for truck drivers to work in an unsafe manner, and ensure that hirers of drivers and participants in the supply chain take responsibility for maintaining the new standards.”

“Drivers work very long hours and face significant disruption to their family time. They shouldn’t also have to work in an unsafe environment and put themselves and others at risk.”

“Last year the government said new laws were not needed. It’s time they reconsidered their stance,” Karl Andersen said.

Background:

1. Comments from (then) Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges that there was no need for a law change are here. They featured in a side box to this Fairfax story, on June 21, 2012. (Dominion Post, page C4).

2. Australia’s Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012 came into effect on July 1 2012.

The object of the Act is to promote safety and fairness in the road transport industry by:

a) ensuring that road transport drivers do not have remuneration related incentives to work in an unsafe manner;
b) removing remuneration related incentives, pressures and practices that contribute to unsafe work practices;
c) ensuring that road transport drivers are paid for their work, including loading or unloading their vehicles or waiting for someone else to load or unload their vehicles;
d) developing and applying reasonable and enforceable standards throughout the road transport industry supply chain to ensure the safety of road transport drivers;
e) ensuring that hirers of road transport drivers and participants in the supply chain take responsibility for implementing and maintaining those standards;
f) facilitating access to dispute resolution procedures relating to remuneration and related conditions for road transport drivers.

ENDS

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