Rachel Olding, Sydney Morning Herald
A three-day crackdown on rogue truck drivers, the fourth in six months, ended yesterday with police and Roads and Maritime Services investigators finding more evidence that speed limiter tampering is still rife in the trucking industry.
Since February, 50 trucks with illegally modified speed limiters have been found travelling on the roads, sometimes at up to 142km/h.
Speed limiters, which prevent a truck from travelling above 100km/h, are a legal requirement in heavy vehicles.
Under ''chain of responsibility'' laws, more than 1000 charges have been laid against the directors and managers of four trucking companies - Lennons, Scotts of Mt Gambier, Damorange and Fred's Transport - whose drivers have been caught flouting the law since February.
However Peter Wells, the Roads and Maritime Services director of customer and compliance, said the next round of criminal charges arising from yesterday's crackdown would target the consignors and consignees who place unrealistic demands on truck drivers such as demanding they be at certain places at certain times or risk losing contracts.
''We're certainly receiving allegations of that from a range of sources; from unions, suppliers and drivers and we're pursing those wherever we receive them,'' Mr. Wells said.
The Transport Workers Union claimed it had evidence that major retailers such as Coles, which are responsible for one in three truck movements in Australia, are using their market control to drive down wages, conditions and safety standards within the trucking industry.
Its recent survey of 715 drivers found that 27 per cent felt they had to drive too fast and 40 per cent felt pressures to drive longer than legally allowed. Many said the pressure came directly or indirectly from the client.
A spokesman for Coles strongly denied the claims, saying the company's transport was managed by ''large and reputable providers'' including Linfox and Toll.
''In no way do our transport contracts with such companies force drivers into unsafe or illegal practices,'' a spokesman said.
''We require our transport providers to comply with all road safety laws and regulations, and all our freight contracts include fatigue management programs."
Since February, the police and Roads and Maritime Services have inspected 1092 trucks and issued 500 drivers with fines and court attendance notices.
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