Truck Drivers Rally At Coles On Anniversary of Horrific Crash

Aug 20, 2015

TWU SA/NT BRANCH MEDIA RELEASE, 19 August 2015

100 truck drivers marched on Coles Hollywood Plaza today in a protest to coincide with the one year anniversary of a horrific crash on the South Eastern Freeway. The truck drivers marched into the shopping centre and stopped outside Coles chanting “down, down, safety is down at Coles”.

TWU Assistant National Secretary Michael Kaine called on Coles and other major industry clients to take responsibility for the intolerable economic pressure that the company is putting on the road transport industry.

“Today is a sad but significant day. One year ago, two lives were lost and a driver was injured terribly. One year ago, this industry said ‘never again’. Never again do we want to see carnage on our roads.”

“But here’s the rub: 22 people, 22 members of our community, have been killed on South Australian roads in crashes involving trucks since this time last year. 22.” said Mr Kaine.

“Road safety isn’t a problem confined to the South Eastern Freeway. This is a national crisis. And it all starts at the top. The likes of Coles are the biggest players in the game. They control rates and conditions throughout the industry. When transport companies are squeezed too tight, and drivers are pushed too hard, people get killed.”

Steve Williams, a small fleet operator, has been working in the industry since 1984 and says that drivers are angry that major industry clients – like Coles – continue to deny they hold incredible power over the industry.

“I run a small fleet of trucks in South Australia. I had eight drivers working for me, and I’ve just had to let four go. That’s four drivers with wives, mortgages, cars and kids.” said Mr Williams. “It’s a disgrace that I’ve been forced to do that, but that’s the way this industry has been heading for a long time. Major clients and governments have immense power and everybody else is left to suffer.”

“I was recently told by a client that, to continue working for them, I would have to drop my hourly rate to $57.40. That’s $57.40 to run a prime mover, a trailer and pay a driver. You’re talking 22 tyres, brake linings, registration every quarter… the costs are horrendous to us. How can I do the work safely?”

The TWU is demanding that Coles, whose revenues were $37 billion last year, take responsibility for the safety of drivers and other road users. Coles instead consistently calls for the abolition of the body set up to keep drivers safe and which can hold them to account – the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

“Make no mistake,” said Mr Kaine. “There will be more crashes and more deaths on South Australian roads if the status quo remains. It’s time for Coles to step up and take some responsibility.”

© 2016 Transport Workers' Union of Australia.
Authorised by Tony Sheldon, TWU National Secretary, 388-390 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia.