Staysafe announces inquiry into Bluecard and truck safety


A parliamentary inquiry will investigate controversial industrial relations laws in the trucking industry

Staysafe announces inquiry into Bluecard and truck safety
Staysafe announces inquiry into Bluecard and truck safety
By Brad Gardner | May 17, 2010

A parliamentary inquiry has been launched into controversial NSW industrial laws to determine if they have improved heavy vehicle safety since their inception.

The NSW Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety (Staysafe) last week recommended an inquiry into the effectiveness of the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Long Distance Truck Driver Fatigue) Regulation and the Mutual Responsibility for Road Safety (State) Award.

The Award requires drivers to complete a union-sanctioned safety course and to carry a Bluecard as proof.

TheTransport Workers Union (TWU) is also granted unfettered access to trucking yards under the Award, which mandates driving plans to prevent fatigue.

The inquiry will also look at rest areas to determine how they compare to other jurisdictions.

"Heavy vehicles account for 21 percent of fatal crashes on NSW roads and 14 percent nationally. It is timely to review the status of heavy vehicle safety in NSW as part of improving the management of driver fatigue and safe driving plans," Camden MP and the Chair of the Staysafe Committee Geoff Corrigan says.

Since its introduction, the Mutual Responsibility Award has been shrouded in controversy due to claims the TWU receives kickbacks because the company administering the Bluecard has financial links to the union.

The union tried to get the provisions introduced nationally as part of federal reform to industrial relations, but its efforts were defeated in the Senate.

CONTENTIOUS ISSUE
Industry groups such as NatRoad and the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association (LBCA) oppose the Award because it duplicates national fatigue management laws by requiring driving plans and work diaries.

The groups also argue the occupational health and safety regulation adds another level of red tape by requiring a log book and driving plans.

But the Transport Workers Union (TWU) claims the measures have improved safety.

"Since the introduction of the laws in early 2006, the number of deaths per year in heavy vehicle incidents has fallen from 98 to 70," the union wrote in its submission to the committee.

"The fatigue regulation and the Award have had a significant impact on changing the safety culture of the road transport industry in the state of NSW."

PUBLIC HEARINGS
The Committee is today holding public hearings into heavy vehicle safety, where representatives from NatRoad, the LBCA and the NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association will give evidence.

The TWU and individual truck drivers Frank Black and Sam Catana will also appear before the committee.

During its inquiry, Corrigan says the committee will look at the NSW law and how it conforms to national transport reforms.

NatRoad wants all fatigue management requirements to be dealt with under the National Transport Commission’s model bill on fatigue management.

The StaySafe Committee will compile a report on its findings after the public hearings.


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