“It is imperative that the right of drivers to protest and speak out is protected and upheld. There has been an unprecedented increase in deaths from truck crashes recently. This case is about ensuring that drivers can voice their concerns about pressure in the industry without being gagged by retailers like Aldi,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
Aldi drivers have spoken out about breaches of fatigue rules and harassment when they raise safety issues. One driver was consistently told “everyone else is doing it, you are the only one with a problem”.
Aldi also engages some contractors in its supply chain whose practices pose serious safety risks. This includes inexperienced trainers training new drivers at one SA transport operator, below-award flat rates with no superannuation at a Queensland operator and vehicles not being maintained properly at another Queensland operator.
Aldi last August pursued a case attacking free speech after it was refused a court injunction stopping drivers from protesting and speaking out. Hundreds of drivers have held protests at Aldi’s moves, including a national day of co-ordinated actions last November in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
“Governments are happy to let truck drivers cop the blame for the increase in truck crash deaths. But it is low cost contracts from retailers and manufacturers which are killing people by putting pressure on transport operators and drivers to take risks, such as speeding, driving long hours and not maintaining vehicles. The Federal Government shut down an independent watchdog investigating this dynamic. It is therefore vital that drivers can continue to speak out about it,” Sheldon said.
Data from Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics shows a 9.4% increase in deaths from articulated truck crashes in the 12 months to last September. For NSW these deaths jumped by 86% – from 29 to 54 deaths from articulated truck crashes.
The job for drivers is also getting more dangerous. Safe Work Australia data for 2017 showed almost 40% of all workplace deaths involved a transport worker.