A recent survey of about 1,000 truck drivers nationally conducted by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has revealed that the two key issues of the transport industry are an increasingly aging workforce and the practices of the retail sector.
The survey was given to drivers at yards, truck stops, distribution centres, depots and also online in an attempt to understand what drivers themselves think of the trucking industry.
Forty six per cent of the surveyed participants were 50 years of age or older and the TWU said that this indicated that there is a serious problem with aging workers in an industry that is struggling to attract younger workers.
Many of the truck drivers that completed the survey cited the retail sector as a problem with the pressure they exert on drivers to miss breaks, delay maintenance, drive over speed limits and to overload their trucks.
Tony Sheldon, the TWU National Sectretary, said that the results clearly indicated that truck drivers feel that the big retailers are placing undue pressure on them to breach the legislation.
He said that it is a concern when truck drivers constantly feel pressured to meet unrealistic deadlines and are given low rates of pay, the result seems to be that heavy vehicle accidents and consequently driver fatalities are high.
According to a report in ‘Fully Loaded’, the Transport Workers Union claimed that 73 per cent of the drivers that move freight for Coles said that pressure from retailers is the primary cause of dangerous pressure that is levied within the trucking industry.
Also in the results of the survey, forty six per cent of the respondents feel pushed to go without breaks, and approximately one in three truck drivers feel pressured to go over the limit for safe driving hours as set in the legislation.
In addition twenty eight per cent feel that they are expected to drive over the speed limit to meet deadlines and twenty six per cent recorded that they felt that they needed to carry loads that were over the legal weight.
Waiting times are an ongoing issue for truck drivers with over a third of the survey participants that are carrying loads for the retail sector said that they are not being remunerated for the hours they spend waiting to either load or unload at warehouses and distribution centres.
In addition, twenty four per cent said that they had spent more than eleven hours of time while they were waiting to load or unload their vehicle.
One of the truck drivers who participated in the survey claimed that the times that truck drivers are given to reach their delivery destinations are ridiculous and that days are spent constantly driving without enough time to take breaks.
He said that just to make ends meet truck drivers need to be on the road twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and there was no time to spend with their family and friends.
The TWU is saying that the retailer Coles is causing a number of he key issues identified in the survey according to ‘Fully Loaded’ however the retailer has, a number of times, reiterated that it is not pressuring truck drivers to breach the laws or drive illegally or unsafely.
A spokesperson for the company dismissed the TWU survey and suggested that survey results can be skewed to deliver any outcome that is required.
They said that the company has heard the claims by the TWU many times about their transport practices and that there is no substance or truth to them. The company requires all transport operators to follow the road rules and to comply with all applicable health and safety regulations.
The Coles spokesperson said that the company has had regular conversations with the heavy vehicle enforcement authorities regarding how they approach their chain of responsibility.
They said that there has not been an investigation or prosecution for any breaches of chain of responsibility and in fact the company has received acknowledgement for the strength of their procedures and processes that address health and safety issues.