Trucking deadliest job down under, by a long shot

By: Cobey Bartels

A Monash University study launched at Parliament House today shows that truck drivers are 13 times more likely to die at work than any other profession, prompting calls for action

Trucking deadliest job down under, by a long shot
Calls for a pay-related safety initiative, similar to the scrapped RSRT, have been reignited


No other job in Australia is as deadly as truck driving, a stark finding that has prompted calls for an overhaul of driver health monitoring.

The study, supported by Linfox and the Transport Workers' Union (TWU), based its findings on more than 120,000 compensation claims across a 12-year period.

During that period there were 545 compensated fatalities among truck drivers, making the risk of dying at work 13 times higher than it is for any other Australian workers.

One of the co-authors of the study, Monash University’s Ross Iles, explains on ABC Radio that if you add up all the claims there are over one million weeks of work that have been missed as a result of injury and disease.

Crashes only accounted for 17% of the lost time, while a staggering 83% could be attributed to injury and disease caused by stress, falls, slips and other causes.

For those that drive this may not come as a surprise, but musculoskeletal issues such as back pain were the most common type of injury throughout the study.

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The study’s findings have led to a debate around how the dangers associated with truck driving are managed, with the TWU and Australian Trucking Association (ATA) in disagreement.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine is calling for a safe rates return, citing contract pressures as a safety factor.

"There needs to be a body in place, which can require those economic giants to pay their fair share to lift contract pressures and to ensure drivers can return home safely to their families at the end of the day," Kaine says.

"Truck drivers are being utterly failed. They are being bashed, broken and killed because of their jobs.

"These are alarming findings which require serious action, not platitudes, voluntary codes or misguided regulation which don’t tackle the real cause of the problems: the economics of the industry.

"When wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top of the transport supply chain continually demand low cost contracts this results in financial pressure on transport operators and drivers."

ATA chief executive Ben Maguire responds to calls for pay-related changes insisting it won’t improve safety.

"Paying people more money is not going to make the roads safer," Maguire says.

"The ATA have Australia’s leading safety management system in Trucksafe – we’re teaching operators how to maintain their vehicles better and how to train their drivers better.

"It’s a complex issue and the TWU are not engaging in that conversation. The TWU are a member of ours, they get an invitation to come to all our meetings and they just don’t come.

"There are so many other factors involved in having healthy people behind the wheel of a vehicle that are ignored in just that conversation, and the ATA have been advocating for years for better workplace programs and those conversations around mental health."

See below for a snapshot of the report findings or click here for the full report.

Monash Snapshots.PNG

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