Searchshow menu

Road freight transport

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 (Australian WHS Strategy) identifies Road Freight Transport as a broad industry group.

Road Freight Transport is a hazardous industry. This industry features in both serious claims and fatalities by industry[1]. Over the eight-year period from 2003–04 to 2010–11, 352 transport industry workers died from work-related injuries. Of these, 173 fatalities were the result of single vehicle incidents classified as either 'rollover' or 'hit stationary object'–49 fatalities occurred while 'loading and unloading' while 12 occurred while undertaking 'repair and maintenance tasks'. The number of deaths attributed to the Road Freight Transport industry is roughly ten times higher than all other industries across the eight-year period. Workers in the Road Freight Transport industry submitted 4000 non-fatal serious compensation claims per year. Sprains and strains accounted for 45 per cent of all injury claims in the industry. The most common causes include:

  • muscular stress while lifting, carrying or putting down objects (19 per cent)
  • muscular stress while handling objects (15 per cent)
  • falls, trips and slips (28 per cent)–with most falling from trucks or tripping over objects on the ground
  • vehicle incidents (8 per cent)–with most being hit by a truck or by crates, boxes or other containers.

Median time lost from work and claim cost is consistently higher in the Road Freight Transport industry than for the all other industry averages.

In Australia, around 550 000 people work in the Road Freight Transport industry. This equates to five per cent of the working population.

Comcare considers the key to reducing risks in this sector is for a systematic approach to work health and safety matters adopted for all work undertaken.


The most common causes of death or serious injury for transport workers include:

  • vehicle (collisions and overturns)
  • struck by object
  • fatigue
  • falls from height
  • hazardous manual tasks
  • slips, trips and falls at level
  • health and co morbidity.


Improvements in road and vehicle design and safety features together with improved post-crash medical treatment capability have all contributed to reducing the number and severity of incidents. The Australian WHS Strategy Healthy concept of 'Safe By Design' now seeks to extend these remedies to apply to the actual design of work and road transport tasks.

A targeted hazard identification and risk management process underpins improved work activity design. This will contribute to improved identification of risks and allow appropriate measures to reduce those risks. Associated risks include:

  • the nature of the load
  • loading and unloading practices
  • load restraint
  • fatigue
  • scheduling
  • maintenance
  • communication along the supply chain
  • environmental factors
  • route taken
  • unique driver characteristics.


Resources are available to assist the reader better understand the sources of risk in the Road Freight Transport industry. The following table outlines resources available in various jurisdictions.

Information sourceOverview
Managing Hazards in the workplace Guidance for managing various risks in the workplace
Recovery and rehabilitation Return to work guidance
Road Transport materials – to be released  
Safe Work Australia
A-Z Model Codes of Practice Model codes of practice that apply for managing risks in workplaces
A-Z Guidance Material and Fact Sheets Guidance material providing information to assist with compliance
National Heavy Vehicle Regulator  
One Regulator, One Rulebook Rule book for states regarding regulation of Heavy Vehicle Road Transport
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
Work Health links Guidance material for work health
Work health in key industries and sectors  
Getting on Board for a healthy workplace Get on Board program for healthier lifestyles of members of the  Transport Industry
Managing Falls from Vehicle Injuries - Prevalence, Severity and Importance Factsheet providing guidance for falls from vehicles
Safe handling when securing loads on trucks campaign Materials and guidance for securing loads on trucks
Hazardous manual tasks risk management for transport operators Guidance material on hazardous manual tasks
Stay at Work: Return to Work Information on returning to work
Queensland Government
Transport Noise Management Code of Practice Practical guidance on transport noise management
Code of Practice - Vehicle Inspection Guidelines Inspection guidelines for various vehicles
Return to work support Guidance material on return to work
Workcover New South Wales
Safety in the road freight transport industry: Guide Guidance provides health and safety information for road freight transport operators
Road Freight industry Transport Action Plan 2013-2014 Action plan for the hire and reward (transport of other peoples goods) road freight industry in NSW
Manual Handling Black Sports: Transport and Storage Information relating to manual handling injuries specific to the transport and storage injury
Using cheater bars on dogs is dangerous Safety alert regarding cheater (extension) bars not to be used over-centre load binders when securing loads
Recover at Work Return to work material
Victorian WorkCover Authority
Road Transport VWA Landing page for road transport information
Safety by Design - Eliminating Manual Handling Injuries in Road Transport Guidance for eliminating manual handling risks in road transport in the design stage
Delivering Large Gas Cylinders - A Guide to Manual Handling Practical guidance for people involved in supply chain for gas cylinders
Delivery Planning - Unloading at Site Guidance on safe unloading of goods transported by road freight drivers
Prevention of falls in the transport of livestock Guidance material on preventing falls with transporting livestock
Prevention of falls in the transport of steel Guidance on prevention of falls in the transport of steel
Getting in/out of truck cabins, preventing slips trips and falls Safety solution to prevent injuries when getting into our out of a truck cabin
Queuing at Distribution Centres - Preventing Fatigue Guidance notes to reduce driver fatigue
Construction – Preventing injuries when loading and unloading vehicles One page Guidance
Transport Of Waste & Recyclables, Prevention Of Falls Supply chain guide
Prevention Of Falls In The Transport Of Roof Trusses And Wall Frames Supply chain guide
Transporting People And Equipment In Vehicles Better practice information sheet
WorkSafe Tasmania
Workers Compensation Handbook: the basics Handbook detailing the basic requirements for workers compensation
WorkCover Tasmania
The benefits of returning to work Benefits of having a worker return to work from injury
Injury Management - Making it Work Guidance on injury management
SafeWork South Australia
Three point linkage connections Hazard alert for risks associated with three point linkage
Transport of flammable gas cylinders Hazard alert for risks associated with transport of flammable gas cylinders
Working under elevated motor vehicles Hazard alert for risks associated with elevated motor vehicles
Health and wellbeing Health and wellbeing systems for workers
WorkCover South Australia
Barriers and facilitators to return to work Outlines barriers and facilitators to a workers successful return to work
Workers Compensation & Rehabilitation - Workers & Employers Rights and Responsibilities Guidance on workers & employers rights and responsibilities on workers compensation
WorkCover Western Australia
Returning to Work: Overview Guidance material on return to work
WorkSafe Western Australia
Commercial vehicle driver fatigue management training  
Fatigue management for commercial vehicle driver  
Frequently asked questions - Fatigue management for commercial vehicle drivers  
Industry checklist - commercial vehicle drivers  
Code of practice - Fatigue management for commercial vehicle drivers  
Code of practice - Prevention of falls at workplaces  
Safety alert 01/2009 - Driver fatigue  
Safety alert 02/2013 - Non-conforming sleeper cabs in commercial vehicles increase the risk of driver fatigue  
Safety alert 09/2011 - Fatigue management for fly in/fly out commercial vehicle drivers  
Northern Territory Worksafe
Transport and Storage Information regarding the Transport and Storage sector
Returning to Work - A Guide for workers Return to work guidance for injured workers
Northern Territory Department of Transport
NT Road Management Fatigue Management Package Package of materials on Fatigue Management for the Road Transport industry
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
Heavy Vehicle Regulation Package of materials regarding Heavy Vehicle Regulation
Network Management materials Publications relating to traffic management and freight
National Transport Commission
Load Restraint Guide Basic safety principles for safe carriage of loads on road vehicles
Heavy vehicle driver fatigue Guidance on fatigue management for drivers of heavy vehicles
New South Wales Roads & Maritime
Heavy vehicle driver handbook Handbook for drivers of heavy vehicles
Safety and Compliance Resources for safety and compliance for heavy vehicles
Victorian Transport Association
Safety Fact Sheets - Transport Industry Safety Group Fact sheets for the Transport Industry
Transport Western Australia
Staying Alert at the Wheel Guidance material for safety behind the wheel
National Road Safety Partnership Program
NRSPP Case Studies Organisational initiatives to create a positive safety culture
Australian Trucking Association
Truckies Top Tips Safety tip sheet for sharing the road with trucks
ATA Safety Truck Safety videos for trucks
Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure
National Land Freight Strategy Partnership between Commonwealth, State, Territory, local governments to drive efficient and sustainable freight logistics

[1] Safe Work Australia, Work Health and Safety in the Road Freight Transport Industry October 2013

Page last updated: 28 Feb 2019