Major Retailers Must Be Accountable – Report Shows Rule-Breaking Rampant


The Transport Workers’ Union is calling on the road safety watchdog to hold major companies using transport operators to account after new research shows rule-breaking is rampant and is putting workers lives at risk.

A report by Safe Work Australia shows one in five transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.

The report states that “workplace conditions and to some degree pressure from management stops workers from following safety practices”.

The findings are a damning indictment of what is going on in the transport industry and those at the top of supply chain are to blame, says TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

“Rules are being broken because of pressure from billion-dollar companies at the top. Major retailers such as Coles are squeezing transport operators by continually reducing transport contracts. Workers are ultimately paying for this with their lives,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon called on the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to hold companies at the top of the supply chain to account for rule-breaking in transport. Drivers are pressured to skip breaks, drive for longer and faster with over loaded vehicles in a stressed and tired state. They face losing their jobs if they do not go along with rule-breaking.

“For too long truck drivers and transport operators have carried the can for what is going wrong in our industry. Drivers are killed in truck crashes, they are jailed when crashes occur and they are blamed when taking risks to meet the economic demands of companies like Coles,” said Sheldon.

“Trucking is Australia’s deadliest profession and until the very source of this problem is addressed, the carnage will continue,” he added.

The Safe Work Australia report also shows:

  • 40% of transport employers say their workplace does not suit those overly concerned about being injured while only about 20% of workers agreed
  • 20% of employers consider minor incidents a normal part of daily work compared with 10% or less in other industries, and
  • 20% accept dangerous behavior, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
  • 45% of workers say risks are unavoidable
  • 31% of employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done


  • The Safe Work Australia report, Transport Industry: Synthesis of research findings can be found here:
  • Trucking is Australia’s deadliest profession with drivers 15 times more likely to die than any other profession, according to Safe Work Australia. Each year 330 people die in truck related crashes.
  • The retail industry is responsible for up to 40% of freight movement in Australia, with Coles and Woolworths dominating almost 80% of that share. Coles has refused to engage with the TWU on safety issues and is opposed to the road safety watchdog for trucking.
  • A recent audit of three transport operators at the Coles Distribution Centre at Eastern Creek in NSW found 126 breaches of National Heavy Vehicle Regulations. These included drivers forced to mark loading and unloading time as rest time and drivers denied their rest time during more than 11 hours driving.

Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal:

  • The RSRT has the power to inquire into issues and practices in the road transport industry, including holding major clients like Coles to account for how their business practices affect safety throughout the supply chain

TWU survey of truck drivers found:

  • 46% of drivers in the Coles supply chain feel pressure to skip breaks,
  • 28% feel pressured to speed
  • 26% feel pressured to carry overweight loads

The National Transport Commission’s report on Remuneration and Safety in the Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry (2008) said practices by the retail industry affecting road transport “can play a direct and significant role in causing hazardous practices”. It adds: “There is solid survey evidence linking payment levels and systems to crashes, speeding, driving while fatigued and drug use”.

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