Peter Anderson | Aug 24, 2012

A new study has found that a master-slave mentality exists between Australia's trucking companies and the customers they supply - and it's killing drivers and other road users.

The study was led by researcher Dr Angela Wallace from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Centre for Accident Research and Safety - Queensland (CARRS-Q).

The in-depth study saw 70 interviews carried out, including drivers, employers, depot managers, receivers, schedulers, consignors and government transport groups.

"One of the most significant findings from these interviews relates to the notion of power," said Dr Wallace.

"The perception that the 'customer is king' was widely viewed, with the majority of stakeholders believing that there exists a 'master slave mentality' in the industry."

Dr Wallace also said that the industry viewed retail supply chains as immune to their responsibilities, and called for transport departments to enforce breaches of chain of responsibility laws.

Smaller trucking companies were considered particularly at risk, but the report found that most drivers felt pressure to cut corners on safety.

This is borne out in government figures, which show 184 fatal crashes involving trucks occurred in 2011.

A new national Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal began in July, and Dr Wallace said that she hoped this would reduce pressure on drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines.

"Knowingly or unknowingly, the activities of customers, consignors, agents, and suppliers have a major influence on drivers' fatigue levels, overloading, load restraint, and speeding, all of which affect safety," she said.

The study is to be presented at the inaugural International Conference on Occupational Safety in Transport to be held on the Gold Coast on September 20 and 21.

[Photo: Timitrius, Flickr.]

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