Skip to main content

Korean research shows Safe Rates works: better truck driver pay improves safety

news 10 Aug 2021

Research into a Safe Rates system which has been in force in South Korea since January 2020 shows it’s working.

Safe Rates systems set standards for fair pay and working conditions in road transport by law. They make companies at the top of contracting chains responsible for ensuring the standards are met.

Minimum safe rates of pay relieve commercial pressures on road transport  drivers that induce unsafe road practices. Safe Rates also enable driver to be able to provide for themselves and their families, while critically reducing pressure on drivers to drive while fatigued, speed or overload their vehicles. The new research shows the theory behind Safe Rates is working in practice in South Korea.

The Korean Safe Rates system applies to owner operator truck drivers in the container and cement transport sectors. Research into its first eight months was based on two driver surveys conducted before and after it came into effect.

“Drivers reported a decrease in cost-cutting pressures,” said Noel Coard, the ITF’s Inland Transport Secretary. “Fatigue, speeding and overloading, the main factors in lorry crashes, all improved. The research confirms that Safe Rates works in Korea. And if it works there, it should be put in place all around the world.”

The main findings in the research are that after Safe Rates was put in place:

  • Truck driver pay increased on average by 3.6%
  • The number of drivers who experienced drowsiness while driving decreased by 29%. 
  • The number of drivers who overloaded went down by 39.9%
  • The number who speeded reduced by 33.6%

“Although pay increased,” Coard said, “the research revealed that truck drivers in South Korea only receive 56.8% of the average transport worker ’s pay in the country. So there is a lot of scope for improvement.”

The research also showed that Safe Rates is being undermined by continual violations by clients and transport companies.  The system would have an even bigger impact on road safety and industry sustainability if it were properly enforced.

The report concludes that Safe Rates should be made permanent and extended to other sectors. It says there should be better monitoring and enforcement with trade union and other stakeholder participation. It also suggests that the system could be improved by adding pay standards for multi-stakeholder contracts.


  • The research, entitled Analysis of the Early Impact of the Korean Safe Rates System and Proposals for Sustainable Implementation, was published by the Korean Public Service and Transport WorkersUnion Cargo TruckersSolidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) and the Korean Safe Rates Research Group (KSRRG), with support from the International Transport WorkersFederation (ITF).
  • It confirms decades of research by international academics and experts which shows that fair rates for commercial vehicle drivers improve safety on our roads. It also confirms the principles laid out in the ILO Guidelines on the Promotion of Decent Work and Road Safety in the Transport Sector adopted in 2019.
  • Questions about the research should be directed to the Korean Safe Rates Research Group (Doojoo Baek, Director, Anyone who wishes to know more about the ITFs work to win Safe Rates globally should contact the ITF Inland Transport team at