New bill could help reduce truck accident rates

Date: Mar 05, 2012

The number of truck accidents across the nation could be reduced if a new bill is passed through federal parliament.

Following on from a number of accidents involving heavy vehicles across Australia, the legislation would seek to instate a special tribunal that would investigate the work conditions surrounding the road freight transport industry.

Issues such as pay, overtime, delivery speed and the use of self-employed drivers would be examined, as would the remuneration systems used to reward workers who beat a deadline.

Previous inquiries into the industry found that some professionals were under significant pressure to meet stringent time limits.

Sometimes the drivers would find themselves forced to stay on the road for hours on end, unable to take a break and refresh their senses in accordance with driver fatigue guidelines.

Previously promoted by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) in NSW, these initiatives are now handled by the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and suggest that road users be aware of warning signs that suggest a loss of concentration is imminent, such as yawning, tired eyes, restlessness and slowed reactions.

RMS has been highly active in promoting these symptoms of fatigue and has urged all drivers pull over every two hours to restore their energy levels with gentle physical activity, food and refreshments before taking to the roads once again.

However the pressures in place in the industry were noted as having an adverse effect on truck drivers, who were ignoring the warning signs and in some cases turning to medication or illicit substances in order to stay awake.

In addition, the constant demand to be on the move saw some businesses neglect vehicle maintenance procedures – meaning that the heavy machinery was not always up to scratch and may not be able to respond correctly during an accident.

According to the federal minister for workplace relation Bill Shorten, the legislation would help to bring about a number of changes to the industry that could reduce the pressure on professional truckies – keeping them and other road users safe.

Shorten told the Canberra Times on March 1: "This issue should be above politics. You can't even begin to put a price on life."

The powerful vehicles have been known to cause severe damage in the past, with fatal car accidents and whiplash injuries a commonly-cited result when drivers lose control of their heavy transports.

While truck accident injury compensation can go some way towards providing victims with financial relief, it would be better for all concerned if the crashes were to not occur at all.

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