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AAP

2012-12-10

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths will be investigated by a new government body as it looks for a link between road safety and the pay and conditions of the nation's truck drivers.

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) released on Monday its first annual work program and the framework of its inquiry into pay and conditions in the industry and safety.

After submissions from industry groups, individuals, unions and other interested parties the RSRT selected a number of sectors to be investigated.

These sectors include retail, livestock, bulk grain, interstate long distance and intrastate long distance.

An RSRT spokeswoman said it was the first time in the world a nation-wide inquiry would be held on the link between remuneration of road transport workers and safety.

"It is a world first on a national scale," she said.

"Australia is really leading the way in this sort of tribunal to really look at the link between remuneration and safety in the road transport industry."

The Transport Workers Union (TWU), which campaigned for the retail sector to be investigated, has welcomed the decision to look at each sector individually.

"We think this has got the real potential to change behaviour in really key supply chains in the industry," TWU assistant national secretary Michael Kaine said.

"Importantly the tribunal resisted the temptation to just deal discreetly with particular issues like waiting time or rates and have decided to take a sector by sector approach.

"The important thing is by taking a sector approach they're focusing on the entire supply chain and the pressures that lead to these issues in the first place."

Mr Kaine said road safety issues to do with driver fatigue and the use of artificial substances to stay awake were more prevalent in the retail sector because of unrealistic deadlines.

The retail sector also accounted for just under a third of all transport jobs.

"In the retail sector they will have squarely in their sights the commercial pressures put on the trucking industry by the likes of Coles and how to address those," he said.

The Australian Logistics Council which represented retailers during draft submissions said it was not surprised that the RSRT decided to place a heavy focus on the sector.

"The major retailers, like all parties in the supply chain, are committed to achieving positive road safety outcomes and to meeting their Chain of Responsibility obligations," ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff said.

"This is demonstrated by the retailers' participation in the ALC Retail Logistics Supply Chain Code of Practice.

"It should be noted there has been encouraging progress in recent years to reduce the number of heavy vehicle fatalities in Australia against the backdrop of an increasing freight task."