Calls for truck safety inquiry

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway is calling for a parliamentary inquiry into safety in the trucking industry after a firm was fined when its driver broke laws around hours of work and rest breaks.

This week Dibble Transport was fined $21,000 in the Te Awamutu District Court after pleading guilty to 53 charges under the Land Transport Act.

A police investigation found 14 drivers had been working longer hours than the law allows.

Some were travelling up to 1000 kilometres a day, with only 4.5 hours' rest between shifts. The law requires drivers have a break of at least 10 consecutive hours in any 24-hour period.

"The fine handed down to a North Island trucking firm this week is another reminder that the financial pressures placed upon drivers often lead to unsafe practices that not only put the drivers at risk but also create unnecessary hazards for other road users," Mr Lees-Galloway, Labour's transport safety spokesman, said.

"The failure to comply with work hours and rest-break regulations discovered by the lengthy police investigation that led to this conviction is just the tip of the iceberg."

Mr Lees-Galloway said Labour wanted a parliamentary inquiry to examine all opportunities to improve truck safety, including issues related to remuneration pressures.

"The National Party needs to support an inquiry so that a bi-partisan strategy to make our roads safer can be established."

One suggestion offered by Mr Lees-Galloway was electronic log books.

"Electronic log books that record the movements of a vehicle in real time would make enforcement of work time and rest break rules much easier.

"Easier enforcement will lead to greater compliance and greater safety on the road."

The FIRST Union, which represents workers in transport and logistics, has also called for action on truck driver safety.

"Many truck drivers are owner-operators and their margins are constantly squeezed, leading them to take risks and compromise the safety of themselves and others on the road," union general secretary Robert Reid said.

"New Zealand needs to follow Australia's lead, which last year brought in stronger laws to make sure truck drivers do not have remuneration-related incentives to work in an unsafe manner."

This is not the first time Mr Lees-Galloway has called for action on truck driver safety.

In June he called for "urgent action" after Operation Austrans, a trans-Tasman law enforcement operation found the use of drugs, particularly stimulants, was rife in the heavy vehicle industry.

"The reason for this is clear," Mr Lees-Galloway said at the time.

"Drivers under pressure to meet extreme deadlines use whatever means they can to stay awake longer and drive further to make sure they hit their targets. Some resort to drug use to keep them going.

"The Government should hold an open inquiry into the causes of drug use in the transport industry."

Manawatu Standard