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Should the RSRT remain in the rear-view mirror?

April 27, 2018

A survey by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) shows 93% of drivers want to see changes to make transport safer and less pressured. In the same survey, the union says 87% of respondents believe police operations targeting drivers will not make the roads safer.

The union says that more than 1,000 drivers responded to the survey, which was conducted after police blitzes on trucks after a series of crashes.

The union is calling on the government to reinstate the road safety ‘watchdog’, saying that in the two years since its abolition, “wealthy retailers like Aldi” have been able to financially squeeze transport operators, many of whom are family-run businesses.

“Two years ago, the Federal Government scrapped scrutiny and accountability on the major manufacturers and retailers like Aldi over poor rates in their supply chains,” said TWU Acting National Secretary Michael Kaine.

“This financial pressure means that trucks are not being maintained and drivers are being pushed to speed, drive long hours and skip mandatory rest breaks. This is devastating families across Australia because of truck crashes and it means drivers are copping all the blame for problems in the industry.”

He went on to say that the only response from the Federal Government to the spike in deaths was to increase the number of speed cameras to catch drivers and to have police fine them over breaches.

‘Crashes will increase’

He said that until wealthy clients are held accountable for low-cost contracts, the number of crashes will increase.

But the Australian Logistics Council disagrees. Its managing director, Michael Kilgariff, says: “The RSRT (Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal) was abolished two years ago, at the conclusion of a protracted public debate and after two comprehensive, independent reviews showed its approach would make no appreciable difference to safety outcomes.

“Improving heavy vehicle safety is an enormously important national objective – and it should not be conflated with a continuing industrial campaign within some sections of the industry,” he said.

Instead, the ALC says the solution to enhanced safety in the heavy vehicle industry lies in achieving greater compliance with, and enforcement of, the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

“These CoR provisions will be significantly strengthened and enhanced by changes due to come into effect later this year, and our focus should be on ensuring compliance with those changes. That is why ALC has been working in partnership with the Australian Trucking Association for the past year to develop an industry-wide Master Code for heavy vehicle safety, capable of becoming a registered industry code of practice under the HVNL,” said Mr Kilgariff.

“Additionally, ALC’s recent position paper, Improving Heavy Vehicle Safety the Australian Way, sets out other initiatives relating directly to road safety which should be pursued as a matter of priority,” he said.

Some of the safety initiatives suggested in the paper include mandatory fitting of telematics in all heavy vehicles, and requiring heavy vehicle operators to comply with an agreed set of National Operating Standards, to ensure that the nation’s heavy vehicle fleet is operated by competent professionals who comply with vehicle maintenance and safety requirements.

In the meantime, the TWU says the job for heavy vehicle drivers is getting more dangerous.

“Safe Work Australia data for 2017 showed almost 40% of all workplace deaths involved a transport worker. Since the road safety watchdog was shut down, 361 people have died in truck crashes,” Mr Kaine said. He added that a report commissioned by the Federal Government showed Orders by the RSRT were cutting truck crashes by 28%.

Mr Kilgariff argued that the RSRT was “an industrial body, focused on industrial outcomes. The evidence at the time of its abolition clearly showed it would not be effective in dealing with safety. The industry has well and truly moved on, and the RSRT should remain in the rear-view mirror.”

Developments

Will the government breathe life back into the RSRT, and what other developments will take place around driver and road-user safety? The best place to find answers to these questions are in CoR Adviser.

Written in plain English by the transport lawyers at Holding Redlich, CoR Adviser is a monthly newsletter that is full of information you won’t find in the mass media or a basic Google search.

As the deadline approaches for changes to CoR laws, with a greater emphasis on due diligence and executive involvement, are you keeping up to speed with your CoR responsibilities?

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