Driven To Self-Harm

Release date: 21/07/2015

Illawara Mercury, by Joshua Butler, 21 July 2015

THE family of an Oak Flats truckie who took his own life after being victimised for raising safety concerns, wants a Senate inquiry to demand reform in the trucking industry.

Trevor Baldwin, 35, ended his life in a Campbelltown motel in 2007 after 18 months of abuse from fellow drivers.

"Trevor raised dangerous practices and poor treatment of drivers, but it was put in the 'too hard' basket," his brother Ian Baldwin said.

For his efforts he was bullied and intimidated. In one terrifying incident, his vehicle was almost forced off the road by two other truckies.

A Senate committee is now investigating trucking as part of a road safety inquiry, and Mr Baldwin's family has pleaded for it to recommend changes in the dangerous, high-pressure trucking game.

"Some drivers are pressured to do the wrong thing and take risks, to make up time at all costs; but you make a mistake on the highway, it's a fatality," Ian Baldwin said.

Trevor Baldwin was 35 when he ended his life in a Campbelltown motel in March, 2007. The former Oak Flats truck driver was found hanging by cleaners, bringing to an end 18 months of bullying and abuse at the hands of fellow drivers after he brought safety concerns to light.

"Trevor raised dangerous prac tices and poor treatment of drivers, but it was put in the 'too hard' basket," said Trevor's brother, Ian.

Trevor's story started as many trucking tragedies do - trying to make up ground after a delay.

Carrying a major delivery, he was told by management to jump the queue ahead of other drivers in line.

"Another driver complained, so you had two fatigued drivers com ing to blows," Ian said of the incident, the catalyst for 18 months of abuse inflicted on his brother.

"He was pushed and shoved, had a swing thrown at him."

Ian claims Trevor's employer covered up the incident, and told him to take time off.

It was when Trevor left the company, got a new trucking job, and took legal action against his former employer for unpaid wages and entitlements that his family said bullying and harassment began - not from rival drivers, but former colleagues.

What followed ranged from mean-spirited schoolyard bullying - from name-calling and insultsto intimidation, stalking, and ultimately one terrifying incident on the Pacific Highway near Ballina, when Trevor's vehicle was almost forced off the road by two other truckies.

All the while, Trevor and his family were fighting to expose wrongdoing in the system, from logbook doctoring to fatigued drivers.

"Logbooks pressure drivers to drive faster, to overtake in dangerous positions to make up lost time.

They set the schedule as if you were going 100km/h," Ian said.

The Transport Workers' Union says trucking is Australia's deadliest job, with drivers 15 times more likely to die than any other profession and 330 truck-related deaths each year.

As part of the Senate inquiry, the TWU has called for retailers to shoulder more responsibility, saying unrealistic schedules force drivers into deadly choices between getting fined or pushing their limits.

Trevor fought for change . until March 1, 2007, when he checked into a Campbelltown motel after a supply run. He ate a chicken dinner and downed two beers, before putting his head through the makeshift noose of his belt.

After his death, Trevor's family found his computer, where he logged safety concerns - drivers working crazy hours and falsified logbooks.

Trevor's records claim he had driven for 33 hours straight, only taking three hours' break. He had been forced to doctor his books to skirt around restrictions.

"He'd documented everything.

All the bullying, the false hours," Ian said.

"We didn't realise the extent of what was happening." Years of fighting for Trevor followed - appeals to WorkCover, courts and three prime ministers.

Now, the Baldwins have begged the Senate's road safety inquiry to demand reform.

"The company manager should be made to set safe conditions," Ian said.

"The driver should be able to call and say they need extra time.

The boss should say he can stop, have a rest." Ian said the logbook system has no breathing room for slow traffic or roadworks. A driver who missed their delivery time or exceeded allowed driving hours faced fines from the government or their employer.

"They should give you buffer zones. The schedules are not realistic," Ian said.

He said the family would keep pushing for change to help other drivers.

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