Hundreds of truck drivers, industry leaders and gig workers have descended on the nation’s capital to call for safety reforms after dozens of drivers died behind the wheel in the last year.
More than 100 vehicles arrived at Parliament House in Canberra on Saturday, driven by truckers, Uber drivers, couriers, transport employers and members of industry associations.
Truck convoys were also expected at state parliaments in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
The push for reform comes after more than 50 transport workers were killed at work in the last 11 months.
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Pressures on supply chains and gig economy workers have put further strain on drivers, employees and employers, who say the industry is dangerous and urgently needs reform.
An Uber driver of seven years told the rally the gig economy made it hard for drivers to support themselves and was not sustainable.
“All I’ve seen is our rates being reduced further and further, and over the past seven years I’ve heard stories from far and wide, and none of them are positive,” said the driver, named Rosalina.
“We cannot keep going like this. It’s not healthy for anybody.
“At the moment, we have no superannuation, no holiday pay, and most importantly to me no sick leave.
“All Australian drivers are being undercut. We’re all being impacted.”
Transport Workers’ Union national secretary Michael Kaine said it had never been harder for drivers to make a decent living, and conditions were continuing to deteriorate.
“We know only too well how deadly our industry is,” Mr Kaine said.
“There is decades of evidence demonstrating the danger associating with the trucking industry.
“If workers in transport are not looked after, if they aren’t paid enough, if they don’t have the right terms and conditions, then they die.
“And too often when they die Australian road users die as well.”
Canberra-based paramedic Darren Neville told the crowd frontline workers are particularly agonised by the devastation of truck crashes.
“As soon as you hear a call come in and it’s an accident, especially if trucks are involved, you can hear the distress in people’s voices,” he said.
Last August a report tabled in the Senate included 10 recommendations to improve the trucking industry, however none have been implemented by the Commonwealth.
A key recommendation calls for an independent body with the power to set universal, binding standards for operators.
The industry has united behind the recommended reforms and wants them implemented, National Road Freighters Association president Rod Hannifey said.
“Truck drivers and truck companies share the same concerns about the current crisis in transport,” he said.
“The industry is at breaking point and everyone is feeling it. That’s why we’ve come together for change.”
The transport union said industries are also concerned about the “Amazon effect” on driver safety, as international companies attempt to pay workers per parcel delivered.
The union staged a similar protest earlier this month at Hobart’s Parliament House over the government’s inaction on Senate recommendations.