Exhausted truck drivers major threat to road safety

Truck drivers regularly take terrible risks due to a cutthroat contract system, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.

Editor Clive Matthew Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says the recent expose on contract truck drivers in New Zealand ”goes a long way to explaining the rising road toll.”

AUT researcher Dr Clare Tedestedt George recently interviewed 45 trucking industry participants, including 20 drivers. They told her that speeding to keep up with tight schedules, driving longer than their legal limit and falsifying log books are standard practice, with drivers often pressured to break the law to get the job done. 

Matthew-Wilson says the trucking contract system is a perfect setup for fatal accidents.

“Owner-drivers are often forced to work dangerously long hours for minimal pay. Fatigue is a factor in up to 50% of all accidents, and a fatigued truck driver is the most dangerous road user imaginable.”

Trucks  are a major, and growing road, safety hazard. In 1980, accidents involving trucks made up 12% of the road toll. In 2016, accidents involving trucks made up 23% of the road toll. That’s nearly one quarter of the entire road toll.”

Dr George adds that a lack of enforcement is a significant problem.

“Some drivers have one log book to record their actual driving hours, which is what they’re paid on, and a second to show law enforcement agencies.”

The staff interviewed by George told her that the chances of getting caught out for forging logbooks were “practically zero”.

Matthew-Wilson is calling for the government to take urgent action.

“The trucking industry has shown itself to be far more interested in profits than it is in road safety. Clearly, the government has to take firm and immediate action.”

Matthew-Wilson is also puzzled why a so-called left-wing government appears to be comfortable with many truck drivers being treated so poorly.

“Making truck drivers work long hours isn’t just inhuman, it’s downright dangerous.”

“If truck companies can't make a decent profit employing truck drivers for acceptable hours and conditions, they shouldn't be in business.”