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TWU demands WorkCover step in on fatigue

TWU demands WorkCover investigate transport clients’ delivery schedules to make sure drivers are given leeway for traffic delays

April 21, 2010

Workplace safety watchdog WorkCover must investigate transport clients to ensure delivery schedules allow for traffic delays, the trucking union has demanded.

In a media conference outside Parliament House in NSW, the Transport Workers Union has used a spate of incidents on the state’s highways this week to raise concerns truck drivers have been forced to break fatigue management restrictions.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says drivers’ travel times and compliance with fatigue management have been affected by incidents on the Hume and Pacific highways.

There was a string of accidents on the Hume yesterday, including a collision between two trucks and a multiple vehicle accident involving a B-double and four cars.

Police closed a section of the Pacific Highway earlier this week after a truck jack-knifed and careened into the front of a house.

“It is the client which sets the time that good have to move from point A to point B. If that time is not enough to allow for correct rests, roadworks or other major incidents blocking the road, then WorkCover need to step in and sort it out,” Sheldon says.

“With major clients, including retailers, setting the delivery times for drivers so tightly, a three-hour delay yesterday at Holbrook could see a driver caught short next Monday. They have to perform because they are not allowed the economic capacity to say no to powerful clients.”

Under fatigue management, drivers are limited to the amount of time they stay behind the wheel of a truck. They must also take regular rest breaks.

“It is not good enough that drivers are sometimes forced to break driving rules or forgo maintenance on their vehicles in order to make ends meet. The buck needs to stop with the people setting the deadlines – and that is the clients,” Sheldon says.

Sheldon also used the conference to reiterate calls for a minimum freight rate to ensure owner-drivers and company drivers are paid enough to make ends meet.

He says a minimum freight rate must include full reimbursement for fuel and maintenance costs and waiting times.

Unless pay rates are reformed, Sheldon says drivers will continue to be pushed harder to make a living.

“This comes at a terrible price to the community – both in ruined lives and the economic costs,” he says.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year established a working group to develop a safe rates system based on the findings of a National Transport Commission (NTC) study that found a link between safety and pay rates.

As well as the TWU, the group includes Linfox, Scott’s Transport and Bluescope Steel.

Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO Phil Lovel is also part of the group, alongside industrial relations specialist Scott Chamberlin and fatigue management expert Professor Ann Williamson.

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