Every day and night on the roads you are guaranteed to see a truck going and to and from a depot carrying goods and equipment to keep Australians fed and the country moving. It is estimated that over 200,000 people are employed as truck drivers in Australia with a fleet of over 400,000 trucks.
With the current high demand for stock for supermarkets, the number of truckers working longer and more demanding hours is on the rise. In these uncertain times, working truckers may feel obliged to go above and beyond for their employers and put their own safety at risk as well as compromising the safety of others on the road.
Shine Lawyers explore the following questions. What obligations do you have as a truck driver? What responsibilities does your employer have to keep you safe? What steps can truckers take to keep themselves fit, healthy and safe out on the roads?
Truck driver employee rights
The trucking industry is regulated by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR). The guidelines and laws are set out to ensure safety for all in the industry.
As a truck driver you have the right to the following:
- The ability to perform your job in a safe and well-maintained vehicle.
- To work safely in all aspects of your job.
- Adequate rest breaks. For example, if you work 12 hours over a period of 24 hours, you’re required to have seven continuous hours of rest time.
- To maintain safe practice of fatigue management which includes maximum hours worked and compulsory rest periods.
Truck Driver responsibilities:
- Maintain a driver logbook where required.
- Maintain all relevant licences and tickets and ensure that you are adequately qualified to do your job.
- Secure loads.
- Maintain medical checks to ensure that you are fit and healthy as well as drug and alcohol free.
Employer responsibilities and obligations
Employers and companies in the heavy vehicle industry are responsible for:
- Ensuring that loads do not exceed relevant mass and dimension responsibilities (exceeding these limits is only permitted by government authority)
- Not encouraging employees 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.
- Having company policies and procedures and ensuring that all employees aware of them.
- Companies must have set reporting and have in place mechanisms for unsafe practices to be reported and rectified.
- Providing and maintaining a safe workplace for all employees including a well-maintained fleet of vehicles.
Common issues truckers face
- Sprains and strains: The most frequent work-related injuries and illnesses reported by truckers are sprains and strains and traumatic joint or muscle conditions.
- Musculoskeletal injuries: The constant process of loading and unloading trucks in addition to sitting for hours on end can cause musculoskeletal injuries. Sitting incorrectly and in uncomfortable truck seats can cause strains on the body causing back and neck injuries.
Risks for road transport workers
Time pressures: Stringent and tight deadlines for truck drivers can put added pressure on drivers to speed and skip breaks and just keep powering through to get the job done.
Stress: A common health concern for truck drivers, many contributing factors can put added stressors on drivers. Making deliveries on time, being stuck in traffic and dealing with other drivers on the road.
Shift work and fatigue: Shift work is common for truck drivers and working irregular and long hours can cause fatigue.
Poorly maintained trucks: The truck is a truck drivers’ primary workplace, so ensuring a well-maintained and fit for purpose truck is supplied will cut down on workplace injuries and strains due to poor truck conditions.
Manual handling and heavy materials: Loading and unloading vehicles often involves lifting heavy weights, if drivers are not properly trained in safe manual handling practices more injuries will occur.
Working at height: The very nature and build of a truck is generally high, so even getting in and out of a truck will require manoeuvring your body in different ways. You may also be required to climb onto and off the vehicle to check your load, causing a higher risk of falling.
Dangerous goods exposure (including gas and fumes): Truck drivers can be exposed to airborne hazards such as gases and fumes and dangerous goods they are carrying, and these can cause significant harm if correct safety measures are not followed.
Contact Shine Lawyers
If you are a truck driver and you believe your employer has been negligent of your safety or that of others you can speak to one of our expert lawyers. To find out more about your employee rights as a truck driver or to start your claim, contact us today.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: April 8, 2020.