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Truck Driving in Australia: Employee Rights and Company Obligations


According to an article published in The Conversation in January 2018, more than 400 investigations into crashes in Australia focused on driver characteristics: attributes like age, gender and behaviours, including but not limited to speeding.

Road safety isn’t solely the responsibility of the drivers, and crashes aren’t solely their fault. Trucking accidents can be caused by a variety of factors and all parties involved in the industry – from trucking companies to government and regulators – have a responsibility to minimise risks.

In 2015, truck driver Duane Bowering told The Sydney Morning Herald he has often been forced to risk his life and the lives of other motorists by carrying excessively heavy or unsecured loads as companies skimped on safety to cut costs.

In the same article, Tony Sheldon from the Transport Workers Union said one driver was serving a ten-year-sentence for causing the death of a cyclist after being made to work “extraordinary hours”.

So what are truck driver’s employee rights and the responsibilities that employers are obligated to fulfil?

Your rights as a truck driver

On the first of October 2018, amendments were made to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) stating that persons in every link of the heavy vehicle supply chain have a duty to take reasonable steps in order to prevent breaches of road transport laws.

As a driver, you have the right to adequate rest. For example, if you work 12 hours over a period of 24, you’re required to have seven continuous hours rest time.

For more information visit https://www.nhvr.gov.au/safety-accreditation-compliance/fatigue-management/work-and-rest-requirements/standard-hours.

If you suspect your rights as an employee have been breached, the Transport Workers Union of Australia may be able to help: http://www.twu.com.au.

Employer responsibilities and obligations

An employer in the heavy vehicle industry has the responsibility to ensure that loads do not exceed vehicle mass or dimension limits, that they are appropriately secured and that the conditions placed on drivers don’t encourage them to exceed speed limits or regulated driving hours. Your conditions also shouldn’t interfere with drivers getting an adequate amount of rest and consequentially reducing the possibility for fatigue. For more information about your obligations and responsibilities visit https://www.nhvr.gov.au/safety-accreditation-compliance/chain-of-responsibility/roles-and-responsibilities.

Truck accidents and fatalities

Truck driving is said to be one of “the deadliest industries in Australia”. In July 2018, News.com.au reported that over the 12 months to the end of March 2018, 184 people across the country were killed in 163 crashes involving trucks across the country.

In the same article, John Waltis, a veteran of the industry, recounted attending the funerals of more than 50 of his colleagues during his lifetime.

Ensuring the safety of drivers and therefore of other road users is everyone in the chain’s responsibility and it starts with knowing the rules and following them.

Accident map data in your state

The maps below show details of the number of accidents causing injuries and fatalities in states across Australia:

https://www.shine.com.au/blog/case-study/accidents-maps-in-wa-involving-trucks

https://www.shine.com.au/blog/case-study/map-accidents-victoria/

https://www.shine.com.au/blog/case-study/map-truck-accidents-queensland/

Contact us

If you’ve suffered injury as a result of a trucking accident, regardless of whether you were the driver or passenger, you may be eligible for a compensation claim. To find out more and to start your claim, contact us today.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 1, 2019.

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