TRUCK drivers are tampering with speed limiters because of their employers' unrealistic work pressures.
That was the Transport Workers' Union response to the National Transport Commission recommending heavy vehicles be immediately banned from the road if caught travelling 15kmh or more over the speed limit.
Employer groups the Australian Trucking Association and NatRoad have thrown their support behind the draft laws in what TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon labelled a "disingenuous and hypocritical" effort to appease the government.
"For years, the TWU has highlighted the appalling pressure forced upon truck drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines," Mr Sheldon said.
"Yet, NatRoad and ATA have been conspicuous in their silence.
"Economic pressure in the trucking industry has contributed to 2548 deaths on Australian roads in a decade.
"The one mechanism that could address this economic pressure was the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
"NatRoad and ATA aided and abetted the Liberals as they pulled the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal apart."
The proposed law change would treat any detection of speeds higher than 115kmh as evidence a truck's speed limiter had been tampered with.
A National Transport Commission discussion paper said "a high proportion" of heavy vehicles exceeded speed limits on open and urban roads.
"It is estimated that if all heavy vehicles were to comply with speed limits all the time, there would be a 29% reduction in crashes," it continued.
Mr Sheldon said the new laws would punish drivers without getting to the root of the problem - unachievable expectations from overzealous employers and customers.
"Enforcement of laws on our roads is important. But to make this industry safer we must address the root cause of why truck drivers are racing to meet a deadline," he said.
"Transport companies and drivers are constantly forced to choose between safety, their job and maintaining contracts.
"So long as transport companies and drivers are under impossible pressure from major retailers such as Coles to deliver freight cheaper and faster, heavy vehicle driving will continue to be Australia's most lethal job."
Safe Work Australia figures from last year show one in five transport workers break safety rules to meet deadlines, compared to 6% in other industries.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals transport and storage workers aged 35-44 are 75% more likely to acquire a work-related injury than the average Australian worker. -ARM NEWSDESK
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