Last year, the transport and storage industry was Number One once again. But it’s a list that drivers, regulators, and diligent managers and directors are tired of topping.
According to Safe Work Australia’s statistics, trucking, postal and warehousing work is consistently the most dangerous occupation in Australia.
Since 2012, 189 transport and storage workers have lost their lives – a number that amounts to nearly a third of all workplace fatalities during that time, and the majority of which were the result of road accidents.
If 2015 keeps trending the way it has to date, it will be the fourth straight year in which the transport and storage industry was the deadliest area in which to work – and this doesn’t even begin to account for fatalities and injuries sustained by members of the public.
The Senate hears from the grassroots
Currently, a Federal Senate select committee is conducting public hearings into aspects of road safety in Australia.
They’re going to be making recommendations with regard to the social and economic cost of road-related injury and death, and the impact of new technologies and advancements in understanding vehicle design and road safety.
The submissions from industry have recognised there’s a problem – but they have different answers.
For example, the National Independent Trucking Association argued that so long as rates of cost recovery for independent contractors remained at their current level, drivers would feel pressured to speed or drive when fatigued.
But the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) suggests that the need for change sits with the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and current Chain of Responsibility provisions. They support an expansion of CoR to create new duties for vehicle standards and external maintenance providers.
The ATA also backs a simply, clearer structure to the HVNL and the existing CoR duties it creates.
Meanwhile, big industry players like the Toll Group are making daring suggestions about how new technology should be taken up – including that telematics should become compulsory in the Australian freight industry.
A big union and a big consignee spar
The submissions process has also become a war of letters between the Transport Workers’ Union and Coles – and CoR is at the heart of the fight.
The TWU says the industry’s horror stats are brought on by “economic pressures placed on drivers in the supply chain” – pressure they say is applied by Coles and other big retailers.
They say that introducing a general CoR duty across all parties to ensure better road safety will allow better enforcement and prosecution action to be taken against retailers.
Responding to the submission, Coles has rejected the TWU’s claims as “baseless”, and cited its strong safety record and its adherence to the Retail Logistics Supply Chain Code of Practice.
At public hearings in Sydney this month, both drivers and union officials drove the same, persistent point home – some companies are compromising safety standards to save costs, and there is “a culture of risk-taking and law breaking in trucking”.
Expect more to come
More Senate public hearings are to be held – one in Canberra on 14 August 2015, and another in Adelaide on 26 October 2015. The Senate inquiry will report its findings after that.
But if those findings are anything like those in the National Transport Commission’s recent paper on CoR duties, and the undertakings from a recent meeting of Australian transport ministers, change is going to be in the air for all CoR parties.
Subscribers to the monthly CoR Adviser can read our analysis of the NTC’s review paper, and the changes that lie ahead, in next month’s issue. Click here to sign up for a free 30-day trial of CoR Adviser.
Until next time,
Editor, CoR Bulletin