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Safe Rates For Transport Would Save Lives On New Zealand Roads

FIRST Union, the union for Aotearoa’s transport workers, has joined more than 50 trade unions representing road transport drivers around the world in calling for a ‘Safe Rates’ system, which would increase drivers’ wages and improve working conditions while making our roads safer for all users.

The Safe Rates campaign is supported by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), a democratic global union federation of trade unions that represents around 18.5 million workers in 154 different countries. Anita Rosentreter, FIRST Union strategic project coordinator, says a Safe Rates system is crucial for Aotearoa and should be on the table for all parties competing in Election 2023.

"The business model underlying road transport use has eaten away at the rights and earnings of drivers over time and led to unsafe behaviours becoming the norm in many industries," said Ms Rosentreter.

"The global Safe Rates campaign is about putting transport drivers’ and other road users’ wellbeing back at the centre of policymaking rather than just profit."

Safe Rates systems have already been implemented in several countries around the world, including Australia, South Korea, Canada and Brazil; setting safe standards for pay and conditions for road transport drivers. While legislation various by jurisdiction, Safe Rates systems require companies operating within road transport supply chains to ensure compliance with minimum standards set by Government.

Almost half of all workplace fatalities in the year to June 2023 were vehicle incidents(1). Truck crashes killed 80 people in 2021, as well as causing 168 serious injuries and 724 minor injuries(2). And while fatigue is systemically under-reported in police crash reports, fatigue was listed as a contributing factor in a tenth of fatal truck crashes in the three years to 2021. (3)

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"Road traffic accidents happen more frequently under the status quo because drivers are pressured into impossible schedules for low pay, which incentivises risky behaviour, accidents and burnout," said Ms Rosentreter.

"The competitive tendering model in particular drives wages down as companies compete for the same contracts in order to return maximum profit to shareholders, and road users are the ultimate casualties of that approach."

"A Safe Rates system should be up for discussion during our current election campaign as part of wider reform on contracting and the entrenched race to the bottom across our supply chains."

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, supporting the call, said:

"In countries all around the world, the multinationals that depend on road transport workers are cutting corners and driving down wages in the pursuit of ever-higher profits. But these reckless and greedy practices aren't just making life a misery for road transport drivers, they are causing carnage and death on our roads."

"In countries all around the world, low pay and long hours for road transport drivers aren't just making life a misery for the workers who keep are our economies moving. They are also causing carnage and death on our roads."

"The Safe Rates campaign says that enough is enough: We know that when drivers are paid properly and have decent conditions, they are able to work without being forced to risk their own lives and the lives of everyone on the roads. Responsible employers know that fair and safe standards in road transport are not only good for workers, they make our whole industry safer and more sustainable. We stand ready to work with governments, road transport employers and client companies to define these standards and ensure that they are upheld throughout supply chains and across the road transport industry."


1) WorkSafe, 6 September 2023. "Fatalities" dataset.

2) Te Manawatu Waka. "Safety - Annual statistics."

3)Stern, Hal S, Daniel Blower, Michael L Cohen, Charles A Czeisler, David F Dinges, Joel B Greenhouse, Feng Guo, Richard J Hanowski, Natalie P Hartenbaum, and Gerald P Krueger, 2019. "Data and methods for studying commercial motor vehicle driver fatigue, highway safety and long-term driver health." Accident Analysis & Prevention 126:37-42.

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