Australian truckers forced to push limits, break laws

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 11/22/2011

A survey in Australia shows that truckers are detained up to 500 hours at the docks each year without pay and are routinely forced to break speed and fatigue laws to meet deadlines. The federal government is responding with a series of reforms that include shipper accountability and trucker compensation.

The survey, conducted by the Transportation Workers Union of Australia, showed 48 percent of Australian drivers are forced to spend a full work day each week in unpaid detention time at the docks.

“Almost half the drivers surveyed say they are spending a day-plus a week unpaid, sitting and waiting to load and unload, and you see guys driving out of yards dog-tired before they even start so they can make the next slot,” Australian Trucking Association owner-driver representative Frank Black said in a statement.

Tony Sheldon, Transportation Workers Union national secretary, is calling on the federal transport minister, Anthony Albanese, to make reforms that discourage risk-taking.

Nearly 40 percent of the truckers surveyed said they felt pressure to drive longer hours to meet client demands, and 27 percent of drivers said they are forced to speed to meet deadlines.

“These shocking results again confirm the deadly squeeze that powerful industry clients like the major retailers apply to drivers and operators,” Sheldon said in a statement that accompanied the survey.

About 56 percent of truck owners said they forgo vehicle maintenance because of economic pressures, and the TWU says that leads to less-safe trucks on the roadways.

“With no way to ensure cost recovery on essentials like fuel and maintenance, or when forced to work slabs of unpaid waiting time, truck drivers have to push themselves to – and sometimes through – the limit,” Sheldon stated.

Albanese was expected this week to announce the formation of a tribunal that will hold violators, including shippers, accountable. Legislation will be required to reform the laws.

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