STARK MESSAGE: TWU official Mark Crosdale with (from left) Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin and Coast to Coast 100 founder Lyndal Denny on the truck loaded with 275 pairs of shoes, each representing a trucking-related road death
STARK MESSAGE: TWU official Mark Crosdale with (from left) Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin and Coast to Coast 100 founder Lyndal Denny on the truck loaded with 275 pairs of shoes, each representing a trucking-related road death Cathy Adams

Truckies union in drive to improve safety

THERE are 275 pairs of shoes sitting on the back of a truck parked outside Lismore City Hall.

Each represents a life journey cut short.

Last year, 275 Australians were killed in trucking-related accidents. Not just truck drivers, but children, women and men, their lives rubbed out in an instant.

Despite better roads, new surveillance technology, hefty fines, detailed record-keeping requirements and more policing, the carnage continues.

From 2000 to 2004, one-in-five road deaths involved heavy vehicles.

The number of truck-related road deaths has been rising by about 5 per cent per year over the past three years.

Mark Crosdale, a Transport Workers' Union Northern NSW representative, is travelling from Brisbane to Adelaide in a truck carrying the shoes on his way to deliver a new report to Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.

The report, commissioned by the Federal Government, is recommending a national system of enforceable conditions for transport industry workers.

Mr Crosdale said the recommendations would go some way to reducing the death toll because not all truck drivers were complying with current regulations.

“Unfortunately, some drivers are forced to falsify their log books and they are not getting the rest they should be,” he said.

Mr Crosdale said the current remuneration system put pressure on truck drivers to take risks in order to get to their destinations quickly.

The union blames unsafe driving practices on powerful retailers, such as Coles and Woolworths, who, according to them, set dangerous deadlines and inadequate rates for the trucking industry.

The union is pushing for a new method of remuneration which means drivers are not pushed to their limits.

Lyndal Denny, from Coast to Coast 100, a Northern Rivers group which lobbies governments to improve road safety, said no driver should be paid a rate per kilometre.

“Incentive-based payments should be outlawed,” she said.

Ms Denny said the way freight was currently calculated encouraged drivers to speed and tailgate.

“The condition of roads is also part of the problem,” she said.

Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin said a national approach was needed.

“We need a better system that means that truck drivers can drive safely,” she said.

Mr Albanese said the Government was committed to reforming the transport industry with new laws to limit heavy vehicle driver fatigue and excessive speed.

The Government would spend $70 million on a safety package which included a trial of black boxes in trucks to monitor driving hours and speed, as well as the construction of more rest areas along the nation's highways, he said.

An Australian Trucking Association spokesperson said the majority of its members did not think the recommendations would make the industry safer.

Heavy vehicle driver fatigue laws were introduced in NSW on September 29.

The new laws make it possible for customers to be prosecuted if it is found they have contribute to speeding and driver fatigue.



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