Truck convoy to Canberra demands safety changes to deadly industry

August 2, 2022
Michael Kaine addressing the Canberra protest. Photo: Transport Workers Union NSW/Facebook

Hundreds of truck drivers and their vehicles converged on Parliament House in Canberra on July 30 to call for transport industry safety rules. At least 50 drivers have died behind the wheel in the past 11 months.

Truck drivers also took their protest to state parliaments in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Of the 10 recommendations in a Senate report on the road transport industry tabled last August, none have been implemented. The recommendations included: setting safe and sustainable standards in the road transport industry; education, licensing and training; investigations, research and data collection; road infrastructure and driver facilities; and an independent body with the power to set universal, binding standards for operators.

Transport Workers Union (TWU) national secretary Michael Kaine said truck drivers have never had it harder, and conditions are deteriorating.

He said “wealthy clients at the top of supply chains” are “squeezing transport costs”. He also blamed exploitative gig models becoming a part of the transport industry, and said “companies are under pressure to follow suit or risk being pushed out of the market”.

“That’s a deadly recipe, and it’s why some unexpected allies have come together to call for life-saving transport reform.”

TWU NSW secretary Richard Olsen said on July 31 that the industry is united in its call for the lifting of standards. “Reform will be lifesaving. There are deadly supply chain pressures in the transport industry.”


At the Canberra protest on July 30. Photo: TWU NSW/Facebook

Meanwhile, the TWU is warning against a new FedEx proposal to strip new owner drivers of rights such as sick leave and superannuation. The company also wants to pay gig-style piece rates.

Thousands of transport workers across major trucking companies, including FedEx, went on strike last year over attacks on their job security. They won protections including caps on outsourcing, which this new FedEx proposal aims to undermine.

FedEx’s plan to bring in an underclass of drivers, akin to exploitative Amazon Flex, will demand drivers use their own vans and fuel and deliver an astronomical 93 parcels to customers’ homes in a 10-hour shift — roughly one delivery every six minutes without breaks.

Kaine said on July 27 that FedEx’s attempt “to force drivers to deliver a parcel every six minutes is a deadly proposition”.

“This year alone, over 100 people have died in truck crashes, including 26 truck drivers. Cost-cutting from wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of supply chains and competition from exploitative Amazon Flex is ramping up pressure on transport workers to drive fatigued and cut corners on safety...

“As if slashing pay and conditions is not enough, what FedEx is proposing strips workers of rights like collective bargaining, cost recovery, sick leave and superannuation and adds the deadly threat that if drivers don’t work fast enough, they could lose their job.”

[Support the TWU campaign at #SafeRatesSaveLives.]

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