The Transport Workers Union (TWU) says a spike in truck-related deaths on Australian roads last week highlights its concerns over safety in the road transport industry.

Five people were killed in four separate incidents over the Queens’ Birthday long weekend between June 6 and June 8.

That represents an increase from the single person killed in a truck-involved crash over the same long weekend in 2014.

National secretary Tony Sheldon says underpaid and overworked drivers are part of the problem and the union is still urging major transport customers to sign up to its own union-endorsed safety pledge.

“There is a deadly cycle at play with major retailers squeezing the transport operators and drivers in their supply chain to the point that our roads are not safe,” he warns.

“When drivers aren’t paid enough, they are put under pressure to skip breaks, speed, [and] drive for longer with overloaded vehicles in a stressed and tired state.

“Sweating drivers and pushing them to their limit ends in carnage on our roads as we have seen last weekend.”

The union claims the retail industry is responsible for up to 40 per cent of all freight movement in Australia, with major storeowners Coles and Woolworths responsible for 80 per cent of that.

However, Coles – which has been the key target of the TWU’s ongoing safety pledge campaign – says it is involved with a much smaller percentage.

“While Coles’ network comprises more than 2,000 different sites, analysis by Deloitte shows that Coles accounts for just 0.8 per cent of the national road freight task,” a spokesperson tells ATN.

It is a signatory to the Retail Logistics Supply Chain Code of Conduct, and describes the TWU campaign as “malicious”.

Extracted in full from Australasian Transport News.