TWU labels oil, fuel and gas transport safety horrifying

THE Transport Workers Union has released a draft order it says is critical to address "horrific" safety standards in the oil, fuel and gas transport sectors.

The draft Order has been submitted to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and if implemented, the TWU says, will improve maintenance and safety standards in the sector.

The provisions put forward in the TWU draft Order tackling key issues in the sector include:

•      Clear maintenance policies and procedures requiring all supply chain participants to ensure vehicles used in the sector are safe;
•      Safe rates of pay for all time worked with increased certainty around shift start and end times;
•      Regular specified training for the sector including dangerous goods training to ensure drivers have the knowledge they need to keep themselves and the community safe; and
•      Ensuring clients, like Coles, have responsibility for vehicle maintenance and compliance when their goods are being carried in the sector.

TWU Assistant National Secretary Michael Kaine said petrol tankers were the most dangerous sector in road transport, Australia's most dangerous industry.

As one NSW tanker driver, Patrick Armstrong, says: "I work for a good company, but I know that other companies in the industry are dragging standards down."

"They fail to hold up the same high standards that larger operators do and if the RSRT Order isn't put into practice, the standards will just keep deteriorating," Mr Armstrong said.

Mr Kaine said industry research showed that the Australian tanker fleet was old and unreliable and one in four tanker drivers faced economic pressure to speed.

"One in three have been threatened with job losses if they report safety defects," Mr Kaine said.

"We've seen the consequences of poor maintenance standards - this week we've seen Cootes fined over $525,000 for hundreds of road safety breaches relating to vehicle defects, including faulty brakes and suspension.

"It's tragic it took the deaths of two people and another five injured in Mona Vale last year to force an investigation into Cootes vehicle maintenance.

"We saw another horrific accident in Wodonga in August where three people died in a tanker rollover. The causes are still under investigation, but one thing is clear - the community can't sit by while the death toll keeps rising.

"That's why the Union lodged a national dispute on tanker safety, and why we've presented the RSRT with a draft Order to clean up the sector and improve conditions.

"This is about saving lives and keeping drivers and the community safe.

"With over 1,500 on-road oil tankers in operation in Australia, this Order is an important step in improving road safety nation-wide."

Mr Kaine said the TWU has been attending conferences with employers, clients and the RSRT since March to develop solutions to improve road safety in the sector.

The RSRT was established in 2012 to address the pressures placed on drivers in the road transport industry. The RSRT can issue binding Orders on all supply chain participants, including major clients like Coles, to lift safety standards.