The freight industry in Australia is ever-expanding, and most transportation is done by heavy trucks. We see more and more large vehicles on the road, as drivers move cargo for the day-to-day occupational duties.
With the increased risks involved when operating a heavy vehicle, Australian roads have additional safety rules for truck drivers in a bid to keep accidents to a minimum. Despite assigned truck lanes, upper-speed limits of 100 km/h and increased following distances when travelling behind a large vehicle, fatalities involving trucks are sometimes unavoidable.
In the 12 months up until the end of September 2018, 169 people lost their lives in crashes involving heavy trucks.
Due to the fact that most truck drivers are operating a vehicle owned by their employer, under the instruction of their employer, there can be confusion regarding legal rights and obligations when an accident does occur.
To clear this up, we’ll look at the employee rights of truck drivers in Australia and the obligations their company is bound by.
Your rights as a truck driver
When an accident does occur, we can’t assume it was the responsibility of the truck driver. A number of other factors could be to blame, such as weather or road conditions, and other involved parties.
On 1st October 2018, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) was amended to state that every party with some involvement in the heavy vehicle supply chain must take reasonable steps to avoid breaches of road transport law. In other words, the duty of safe driving doesn’t solely fall on the driver.
A legal right of truck drivers is the right to rest. There are set standard hours in which a driver should be allowed to rest, if they have not been accredited for fatigue management. For example, in any period of 8 hours, a solo driver must not work for more than a maximum of 7 and a half hours and must have the rest of that period off work. They are entitled to a minimum of 30 minutes rest time in blocks of 15 continuous minutes.
Due to the fact that the freight industry is remunerated on a productivity basis, it can be common for these rights to be ignored. As a result, safety regulations regarding speed limits and rest times are regularly broken.
Your obligations as an employer
An employer is obligated to ensure they follow all necessary precautions to ensure any vehicle they put on the road is safe to operate, and that the driver has been given adequate time in which to complete their task without the risk of danger.
This includes ensuring that vehicles do not exceed mass or dimension limits. They should be properly secured and you must ensure you do not place conditions on the driver that might encourage them to surpass speed limits or regulated driving hours. The driver should be given adequate time to rest according to the legal standard hours.
Each link in the heavy vehicle supply chain has a duty to make sure their actions do not contribute to breaches of the HVNL. If they fail to meet this duty, they could be held legally accountable.
For more information, read up on the responsibilities of individual parties in the supply chain.
What if you’re involved in a truck collision?
If you have been involved in a crash involving a heavy vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation, whether or not you were the driver.
Truck driving is an occupation with one of the highest injury rates in Australia, so it’s important you understand the steps to take if an incident does occur. If you’re involved in a crash that was or wasn’t your fault, take the following steps:
- Stop and check if anyone is injured or seriously hurt. If someone is hurt, don’t move them unless they’re in immediate danger.
- Contact the police if they haven’t already been contacted.
- Swap details with any other involved party, including name, address, registration number. If there are any witnesses, collect their details too.
- Note details of the accident, such as date, time and location.
- Take photos of any damages.
- Afterwards, get in touch with a TAC lawyer who can help you put through a claim to get back any compensation you may be entitled to.
If you’ve been injured because of an accident involving a truck or other heavy vehicle, find out if you’re eligible for a compensation claim. Even if you’re unsure who was at fault, you may still be owed something – so it’s always worth checking.