I raise a matter for the Minister for Roads. The action I seek is for the minister to outline to the house what additional resources have been allocated by the government to deal with the current safety and maintenance crisis facing the long-distance trucking industry in Victoria. I do not use the word ‘crisis’ lightly. The safety of truck drivers and the families and individuals who share the roads with truck drivers is currently being compromised by unsafe work practices, which is putting lives at risk.
Late last year Safe Work Australia released a report that reinforces the fact that the road freight industry remains the most dangerous of all industry sectors across Australia. The fatality rate is 15 times higher than the national average for other jobs.
The latest figures show that in the last year 242 people were killed in truck-related crashes and hundreds more were injured across Australia. The general road toll is trending down; however, truck driver deaths are increasing, and 78 per cent of these fatalities occur on public roads.
A survey of 90 drivers in the eastern states found that one-third are being pushed to falsify their logbooks. Drivers listed inefficient brakes, oil and fuel leaks, steering, axle and suspension failures, broken engine mounts and tread peeling from tyres as being amongst the many defects they deal with on a daily basis. Just yesterday the Transport Workers Union described fuel tankers as ‘mobile bombs’, warning that driver safety is being compromised by pressure to speed and skip rest stops in order to complete jobs on time. Its members reported that they were being threatened with dismissal if they reported any serious safety flaws.
I draw the attention of the house to the fact that this situation has come to a crisis point. I also draw the attention of the house to the Cootes transport disaster that occurred in Mona Vale, Sydney, in October last year, in which two men were killed and five were injured in the explosion, and other disasters that have occurred over the last six months. As a result, VicRoads and Roads and Maritime Services in New South Wales audited 205 Cootes trucks, resulting in 79 vehicles being grounded and 181 defect notices being issued. Of those grounded trucks, 36 were in Victoria. It is also worth noting that the majority of vehicles in Cootes national fleet are registered in Victoria.
There are serious issues facing the industry, with a lack of maintenance and drivers being pushed to the limit in regard to their driving hours, yet this government has made no public response about how it will deal with this crisis. Instead it has announced an overhaul of roadworthiness to reduce red tape. But what I say to the minister is that road safety is not red tape and this issue needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.