In 2012, the Australian Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) was successful in passing landmark safe rates legislation. It was part of the TWU’s Safe rates campaign to address problems faced by members in the trucking industry.
Customers at the top of the transport chain are the ones who set rates and conditions. The Safe rates campaign aims to hold them accountable for safety along the entire transport supply chain.
How campaigners won in Australia
In Australia, many truck drivers drive long distances for up to 17 hours a day legally. They suffer from the same long hours and lack of sleep that affect truck drivers all over the world.
In Australia, truck drivers are 15 times more likely to be killed while they’re working than the average worker. More than 330 people are killed each year in road crashes involving trucks.
Over the past 20 years of globalisation and deregulation, the cost of road transport has declined. Low rates are paid to transport operators by the major transport customers at the top of the chain. These low rates translate to even lower rates of pay for drivers.
The move to drive down rates, and pressure from employers for unrealistic route times that demand long hours and narrow delivery windows, puts transport operators and drivers under tremendous pressure, and result in incentives to:
- overload trucks
- neglect vehicle maintenance
- drive while fatigued
The Safe rates campaign uses legislation and trade union action to make its demands. It says that when rates are determined for road transport, driver safety and the safety of all road users is the starting point.
Campaign for change in your country
Regulatory and legal frameworks may be different in other countries. Nevertheless, the basic premise of safe rates can be an important tool for raising standards for road transport workers and strengthening unions worldwide.