ACTION must be taken now to address the record number of road deaths on Queensland's Southern Downs roads, according to the Transport Workers Union.
The union was speaking in response to the fact that 10 people have died on Southern Downs roads in 2014, the highest road toll for the area recorded in seven years.
"More deaths can be prevented if we act to address the causes behind these crashes," TWU QLD Secretary Peter Biagini said.
Police have attributed the majority of the fatal crashes to fatigue.
"The TWU's first priority is our truck drivers and their families and truck drivers know too well about fatigue, working in Australia's deadliest job," Mr Biagini said.
Mr Biagini said 330 people die in truck crashes each year.
"Truck drivers are forced by large retailers...to drive longer hours, carry overweight loads and skip breaks to meet unrealistic delivery deadlines - causing fatigue and crashes.
"Truckies are forced to skimp on vital maintenance such as brakes when clients...contract down the chain to the lowest bidder.
"Each layer of contractor takes their cut and the driver doing the job is forced to do it for rock bottom rates. Clients... refuse to be accountable when there is a crash.
"That is why we have been fighting for 20 years for Safe Rates of pay for truck drivers, and succeeded in lobbying for the establishment of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), which aims to stop road deaths due to fatigue in the trucking industry.
"Tony Abbott has indicated he will axe the RSRT, under pressure from big business. Coles has donated $2.1 million to the Liberal Party.
"The RSRT can make the difference between getting home to our families at the end of the day - or the alternative.
"Our truck drivers are professional drivers and local people know their roads: but they are not the only ones on the road as it is a well travelled interstate route.
"To act on fixing the cause of these deaths we need to address the two major factors: fatigue, through Safe Rates at a national level, and the quality of the road itself at a state level.
"The Newman LNP government has failed to act on this despite skyrocketing road deaths last year and despite knowledge of the issue."
Transport and Main Roads have said that there are also structural factors on this stretch of road which contribute to the risk of accidents, such as lack of suitable overtaking lanes and the alignment of the road with steep shoulders and embankments not providing enough places to pull over.
The TWU calls for:
• Both sides of politics to commit to act on improving the quality of the road, addressing the issues which are increasing the risk of accidents
• The Federal Government and Opposition to commit to retaining and strengthening the RSRT as the only transport industry body which has the powers to address the issue of fatigue, the number one killer on our roads.
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