Truck drivers are being forced into dangerous driving situations by low wages says the head of the union for truck drivers.
First Union head vehicle investigator Karl Andersen says truck drivers are among the worst paid professionals in the country and are being forced into dangerous driving situations by low wages.
“Union jobs usually pay between $2 and $4 more per hour than non-union jobs. So you’re better off under a union contract as a general rule, but it is still not a lot of money. But it is very much dependant on the industry,” says Karl.
“I’m aware of logging truck drivers getting paid $14.50 an hour for driving a 45-tonne logging truck. That’s when you start receiving reports from drivers that the only way to make a quid is to extend your hours, working longer hours and fudging their records.
“We’ve seen evidence of drivers taking amphetamines to stay awake so they can drive longer than allowed and keeping false records in their log books.
Under the law heavy truck drivers are allowed to drive for 13 hours in a 24-hour period. It really works out to a 14 hour day as drivers are required to have a 30 minute break every 5-1/5 hours.
After 14 hours working a driver must take at least 10 hours off.
At an hourly rate of $14.50, a driver will make $580 gross for a 40 hour week, or $487 net per week before deductions such as Kiwi Saver.
Karl says if the driver works a maximum of 98 hours per week allowing for a 10 hour break, sleeping eight of them per day over seven days he or she will earn $1421 gross and enjoy three hours per day private travel, eating or spending with family or recreation.
“There needs to be a review,” says Karl.
There have been 65 truck related deaths in New Zealand for the year to date. It is disproportionate to the number of trucks on the road when you consider heavy vehicles make up only four per cent of New Zealand traffic.
“We’re getting more and more complaints about big companies squeezing operators on cost. It’s the drivers who’ll suffer most. The more companies squeeze the rates they pay the more dangerous the roads will become.”
“We think there needs to be legislation such as introduced in Australia.
“There the employer has a responsibility to ensure drivers are adequately paid. A company like Coles Myer is accountable for all the drivers who deliver their goods. They may engage a dozen or so companies in their logistics process, but they are still responsible for the guys at the bottom of the pecking order doing the hard yards for the least reward,” says Karl.