Coles and other major retailers are literally squeezing the life out of Australians, driving down safety standards in the transport industry to feed their insatiable demand for ever greater profits, said Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union.
Mr Sheldon was speaking at a launch event where he was joined by Eva Newton and Stella Christou, both wives of truck drivers.
They posted a giant Valentine’s card to MPs and Senators, asking them to show their love for truckies and road users, and support the upcoming Road Safety Remuneration Bill. The Bill – which the TWU says will make the road transport industry safer – is up for public hearing on Wednesday 15 February, and will be debated in parliament in the coming weeks.
Mr Sheldon said: “Truck driving is Australia’s deadliest industry, with a death rate 10 times the industrial average. The huge pressures placed on drivers by big retail bullies in their relentless drive for profits and control over the entire industry is directly responsible for the safety crisis on Australian roads.
“According to a recent survey, 48% of drivers report almost one day a week in unpaid waiting time; 56% of owner drivers have had to forego vehicle maintenance because of economic pressure; 27% felt they had to drive too fast, and nearly 40% feel pressured to drive longer than legally allowed. These economic pressures impact on every Australian road user. An average of 330 people are killed and more than 5,300 are injured each year as a result of heavy vehicle incidents. The system as it operates now, with its excessive pressures and perverse incentives, can encourage drivers to engage in unsafe road practices, simply to meet arbitrary deadlines imposed by mega retailers like Coles.
“We have had more than 20 years of commissions, coroners reports and inquiries, which have highlighted time and again the link between the transport safety crises and economic factors. Now it is time for action. The Road Safety Remuneration Bill will establish a tribunal that will make the road transport industry safer, and make our roads safer for all Australians.”
Mr Sheldon welcomed industry support for Safe Rates: “I welcome the fact that the Road Safety Remuneration Bill enjoys widespread industry support. Just like truck drivers, industry supports making the roads safer for all Australians and standing up to big bullies who throw their economic weight around with no consideration of the consequences to individuals, families, businesses and communities across Australia. The decision by certain industry bodies, such as the Australian Logistics Council, to oppose a bill that has the support of the majority of their members, if not their puppet-masters in major retail, is deeply disappointing.
“Truck drivers are the backbone of the Australian economy. They do not want to be millionaires, or billionaires, they just want to put food on the table and support their families. They deserve a fair go, not to be relentlessly pressured by major retailers.”
Mr Sheldon said the Road Safety Remuneration Bill enjoys widespread support from industry associations and leaders, including:
•    The Australian Industrial Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO).
•    The Victorian Transport Association (VTA).
•    Australian Trucking Association (ATA).
•    Australian Trucking Association board member and president of the Queensland
•    Trucking Association QTA Tim Squires.
•    Linfox president of industrial relations, chair of the Transport & Logistics Industry Skills Council and president of ARTIO NSW Laurie D'Apice.
•    Port operator and CEO of the Australian Container Freight Services ACFS Arthur
•    Tzaneros.
•    Executive director of the Australian Livestock Transporters Association and former director of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority Philip Halton.

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