White freight liner blues

White freight liner blues

imageDuring the 1950s, the delivery of bread, cream and milk was categorised as an essential community service and legislation was enacted to secure supply. It has since ossified and effectively deregulated the supply chain. A recent report prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers identified a causal nexus between road safety and driver remuneration. However, the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which established minimum pay rates for drivers, was abolished by the federal government. Meanwhile, media investigations have revealed widespread and systemic exploitation of many owner drivers. 15

Tip Top is a subsidiary of Associated British Foods group. It operates the Aldi supermarket supply chain in Australia and the challenging market conditions required a reconfiguration of its operations. Its owner drivers are now categorised as independent contractors and the introduction of low cost contracts with escalating overheads has significantly increased work health and safety risks. Following the dissolution of the road safety tribunal contract rates and payments have been ruthlessly slashed. It has an incalculable impact on fatigue management and vehicle roadworthiness, which generates penury with escalating psychosocial risks. In abolishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal the neoliberal government is merely protecting the interests of major corporations at the expense of beleaguered owner drivers and their impoverished families. 67

A survey from Macquarie University into the logistics and supply chain sector indicates 80% of truck drivers work more than 50 hours per week and 10% work over 80 hours. The pressure on owner drivers to falsify vehicle log books is well established but rarely disclosed because of fear and intimidation. In five years to 2016, over 1000 people were killed in truck related crashes. Safe Work Australia confirms many employers acknowledge that unsafe acts and risk taking results in high levels of injuries and fatalities throughout the supply chain sector. It also suggests the design of work requires extensive analysis to understand why such practices persist and establish how they can be eliminated or reduced. Escalating overheads will inevitably curtail essential maintenance on delivery vehicles and compromise their roadworthiness. This was corroborated following a recent raid at a Tip Top logistics depot in western Sydney. Regulatory authority inspectors from the Roads and Maritime Services examined 46 trucks and issued 25 defect notices. 810

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission, indicates supply chain operators have an inordinate insolvency rate and the smaller businesses with five full time employees or less are most likely to go bankrupt. The psychosocial impact is rather predictable and is substantiated following a Deakin University study, which revealed 323 truck drivers committed suicide between 2001 and 2010. The Tip Top delivery drivers are working extreme hours with insufficient rest and their rates have been slashed. Meanwhile the parent company, Associated British Foods, is expected to announce a profit of over $2 billion, which is an increase of 25% from the previous year. Even the Subiaco besom could do the math on her infamous whiteboard and establish who the real breadwinners are in this casino capitalism arrangement. 1114

Following further extensive research at Monash University, truck drivers have begged and pleaded with the federal government, the National Transport Commission and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator for immediate preventive action. The recent study is summarised in Figure 4 and indicates trucking or supply chain logistics across Australia is a particularly precarious vocation, especially on long haul routes. Many drivers are exposed to multiple risk factors, which include sedentary roles with extended working hours, junk food, social isolation, extreme deadlines, fatigue, road rage and noise induced hearing loss. Over twelve years it has generated almost 121,000 authorised compensation claims, which include numerous work related fatalities. It equates to more than one million weeks or 22 years of lost productivity and the risk of truck drivers dying at work is quite significant. Almost 75% of deaths involved crashes and over four hundred people have died following incidents with heavy vehicles since the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was abolished in April 2016. 1524

Trucking is the most common occupation amongst working men in Australia with almost 200,000 drivers and demand is expected to double as the population escalates. The statistics are foreboding and indicate truck drivers are regularly abused, sadly neglected and even killed at work. It is incongruous with the object of safety legislation and requires immediate attention without the tyranny of bureaucracy or unnecessary platitudes. A persistent demand for low cost contracts from wealthy retailers exerts relentless financial pressure on transport companies, especially amongst smaller owner operators. Supplementary adversarial legislation and voluntary codes of practice cannot resolve many of the sociopolitical and economic issues within the supply chain sector. 2530

It has become another race to the bottom with many truck drivers working excessive hours in defective vehicles to fulfil extreme demands. The consequences are often devastating with increasing chronic health problems, substance abuse and escalating psychosocial issues. However, correlation does not imply causation and descriptive statistics are often used to promote hidden agendas. The scientific information is surreptitiously misrepresented to furtively corrupt public policy, which disregards deeper systemic issues and blames the victim. It produces unreliable facts from reliable figures and you cannot feed the hungry on statistics. The purity of positivism often masquerades inherent dangers and several high profile examples include cigarette smoking, asbestosis and black lung……Well it’s bad news from Houston, half my friends are dying. White freight liner won’t you steal away my mind. 3142

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FIGURE 4

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