Piece rates encourage road risk: Monash research

Study finds truckers on incentive-based pay drive further, longer, and more dangerously

Piece rates encourage road risk: Monash research
Peter Garske says an important point has been missed


New research has found that drivers on per-km or per-trip piece rates are more likely to risk fatigue on the road.

The Associations Between Methods of Heavy Vehicle Driver Compensation and Fatigue-Related Driving Behaviour study, by the Monash University Accident Research Centre’s Jason Thompson and Mark Stevenson, found that on average drivers paid on explicit output terms drove around 100km extra per day, and worked up to 10 hours extra per week.

Thompson, a research fellow with the centre, says he was surprised the relatively simple study created such a clear divide.

"You do hear different opinions about the effect of pay incentives," he says. "Essentially, these are incentivising more working behaviour."

The research also found that drivers working with piece rates were more likely resort to artificial stimulants to help stay alert on the road.

Some 70 per cent of these transport workers regularly used caffeine for this purpose, compared to 45 per cent of drivers on set hourly or weekly wages. Up to 10 per cent of drivers on piece rates also used amphetamines, Thompson says, compared with effectively no drivers on time-based compensation.

Queensland Trucking Association CEO  and Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) Secretary/Treasurer Peter Garske says the research has drawn a common conclusion, but misses an important point.

"If a driver is of the mind to breach the regulations, how they are being remunerated hardly matters," he tells ATN.

He notes that the methodology of the km-rate that is included in the long distance transport award has been established with reference to an hourly rate, and shouldn’t provide any more or less incentive to break regulations as any other form of payment.

Garske urges stakeholders to instead look at ways to reduce fatigue across all types of drivers.

"Fundamentally, we should be looking at enforcement and compliance of the existing regulations," he says.

"Where there exists a culture that says it’s OK to drive too long, industry associations are working with regulators to stamp that out."

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