Union cheers truckie fatigue clampdown

The Transport Workers Union has described charges laid against Unanderra-based McCabe Transport as a "wake-up call" to other operators.

On Wednesday, the Mercury reported claims from former McCabe Transport drivers after the company was charged with 235 fatigue-related offences, detailing the extreme pressure some drivers had allegedly been put under to meet deadlines.

South Coast and Southern TWU Sub-Branch official Lee Lawler said while fatigue management had improved in recent years, there were still concerns about how operators managed fatigue.

"It's nothing we haven't seen in recent times with other companies," he said.

"The TWU applaud the RMS [Roads and Maritime Services] for issuing inspections and identifying [companies] because they not only put lives of their employees at risk but the lives of other motorists.

"We recognise there is a problem with fatigue management breaches in the industry and they are far too common."

He also criticised the federal government's review of the Road Safety Remuneration System, saying if it was abolished it would undo efforts gained to better manage fatigue.

"There are about 200 transport deaths a year - if you were to encounter that number of deaths in any other industry, there would be an outcry."

ATA NSW, the state's peak body representing the trucking industry, said the charges laid against McCabe Transport were not reflected in the wider industry.

"We know the fatigue laws are working because incidents involving fatigue in our industry have halved since fatigue legislation was introduced in 2007," manager Jodie Broadbent said.

"Statistics from Australia's leading truck insurer NTI show the rate of serious crashes per 1000 trucks and trailers improved 42.7 per cent between 2003 and 2011.

"The road toll last year was the lowest since 1924 in Victoria and NSW - if these incidents are occurring and drivers are asked to break the law, that is illegal [and] those drivers need to report to police."

It is expected the charges against McCabe Transport will be heard in Wollongong Local Court on March 18.

Police are scouring truck drivers’ log books and licences in NSW as part of a blitz on dodgy operators who put people’s lives at risk on the road.

About 50 police and Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) officers raided a Coles distribution centre in south-west Sydney early yesterday  and issued nine defect notices after inspecting 60 trucks.

Coles is expected to be served with an ‘‘improvement notice’’, and police and the RMS say the supermarket operator had complied with the inspections.

Allegations that drivers are using ineligible overseas licences will also be investigated.

‘‘People must hold the correct licence for the vehicle that they are driving,’’ RMS safety director Peter Wells said.

But the biggest concern was over trucks with unsecured or improperly restrained loads.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said 63 people had died and more than 1000 were injured last year in heavy-vehicle crashes.

Trucks with unsecured loads are much more likely to lose control or roll, and goods can fall onto a car or pedestrian.

As part of the crackdown, the officers would be examining drivers’ log books and   claims that truckers were being ‘‘forced to drive unrealistic distances, breaching work and rest fatigue laws’’, Mr Wells said.

‘‘The allegations received in relation to fatigue are serious, that people are driving extended hours well beyond the legal limit. Should they be proven, this will be serious indeed,’’ Mr Wells said.  AAP


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