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Truckie Pay Pressures Killed My Brother John

Release date: 15/04/2016

The Daily Telegraph, by Susan Posnakidis, 15 April 2016
 
The thing that will always haunt me is that my brother John spent his last night on this earth waiting with his truck, alone. His truck had broken down and rather than go home, he chose to stay with his load, as any truckie would do. Early the next morning as he waited at a bus stop for help an out-of-control truck carrying 42 tonnes of steel crashed through the bus stop on the Princes Highway, Urrbrae, in South Australia.


Photo: Susan Posnakidis

John died instantly. While his death pains me every day it could have been so much worse, just minutes earlier there was at least 20 schoolchildren waiting at the bus stop.
 
John’s death was not random or an “accident”. He died because of serious problems in the trucking industry.


Photo: John 'Yani' Posnakidis, who was killed by a truck on the South Eastern Freeway while standing in a bus shelter.
 
The company which owned the truck that crashed into him had been operating just a few weeks, the sole operator of the company was the wife of a man whose previous company had gone bankrupt and he was now a driver in the new company.
 
A coroner’s report into my brother’s death said this man “was under extreme pressure in the light of his bankruptcy, was under pressure from creditors and he struggled for new finance”. The run of steel was an important contract and there was a deadline of 9 o’clock that fateful morning.
 
I have no doubt this financial pressure created the conditions which ended up in my brother’s death. Here’s why:
 
The driver was chronically fatigued. The crash happened at 8.40am that morning and he had just five hours sleep between then and 6am the previous morning. A “tiring if not grueling work schedule” is how the coroner described his day. He said he had been screamed at over the phone to get going that morning.
 
He had been employed with the company for only two weeks. There was no induction or safety training which is why I guess he failed to use the safety ramps on the freeway.
 
The most heartbreaking thing is that the police mechanics found that the trailer brakes on the truck were faulty. Maintenance was mostly done in-house with only qualified mechanics used for major work. That’s not good enough. Every truck on the road should be roadworthy, especially the brakes. John’s truck after all had also broken down. I blame a system which puts this much pressure on people trying to make a living, whether drivers or transport operators. The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was set up nearly four years ago to look at the problems in transport from top to bottom.
 
It is investigating the big retailers, manufacturers, oil companies, ports and banks to see whether their goods can be delivered safely with the money they are paying. Obviously this is where the problem is – at the top. These companies keep squeezing people trying to make a living.
 
If this is not addressed and truck drivers are left to meet ridiculous deadlines on low pay and small operators are left to exist on tight margins then nothing will change.
 
Many operators at the moment can’t afford to maintain their trucks, give their drivers proper training and allow them to do their jobs without ­pressure.
 
John’s parting has devastated our family. I know I can’t bring John back but I’ll fight to make sure no other family has to go through the heartache we are living every day.
 

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