Union calls for ‘Safe Rates’ for drivers

In News3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJune 23, 2022

Unregulated competitive tendering in the trucking industry is driving unsafe driving behaviour in Aotearoa that leads to road accidents and fatalities, according to FIRST Union.

“Within 48 hours of the major accident in Picton this week, there have sadly been further fatal accidents in Glenbrook and Blenhiem involving trucks and it’s clear that systemic change is needed,” said Louisa Jones, FIRST Union assistant general secretary.

Jones said these accidents should motivate New Zealand to make important safety changes in the trucking industry.

“We rely on frontline transport workers to keep our country moving, but we don’t provide the minimum conditions that will ensure drivers’ safety when they do,” she said

“Many truck drivers in the country are misclassified as independent contractors, meaning they personally shoulder the costs and risks of the work, even though they often have no say in the commercial contracts with clients that dictate their conditions at work.

“This creates financial and time pressures that can lead to unsafe behaviours like speeding, overloading, driving while fatigued, and neglecting vehicle maintenance. It’s why we frequently hear about breaches of worktime rules and logbook fraud.”

WorkSafe New Zealand reports that at least 73% of acute work-related fatalities involve vehicles. Crash Analysis System data suggests that in 2021 truck crashes caused 73 fatal injuries, 166 serious injuries, and 670 minor injuries. Fatigue was found to be a contributing factor in 10% of fatal truck injuries between 2018-2021, however it is understood that fatigue is significantly underreported in police crash reports.

“This pattern is the same in many other countries, but in the face of supply chain disruptions and labour shortages, workers are standing up and demanding more,” said Jones.

“This month in South Korea, 420,000 determined truck drivers took indefinite strike action for safe pay rates and won, reaching an agreement with the Government to extend their freight rate system that sets a wage floor for all drivers.

“Safe Rates is a system that ensures sustainable wages for truck drivers, easing the pressure to speed, overload and drive while fatigued, while pushing responsibility to the top of the supply chain,” she said.

“It has improved health and safety for drivers and makes the road safer for everyone.”