May 20, 2021


A near-miss on the South-Eastern Freeway yesterday when a truck driver was forced to slam into a pile of gravel, shows how coroner recommendations from six years ago are still being ignored, says the Transport Workers’ Union.

A 2015 inquest into the deaths of James Venning and John Posnakidis, which occurred on separate occasions close to beginning of the freeway, made recommendations about the South-Eastern Freeway.

The coroner recommended that truck drivers be given specific training on driving down the South Eastern Freeway, using arrester beds and that they should be supervised when using the freeway for the first time.

The coroner also made recommendations about truck maintenance and ensuring that trucks are regularly checked to make sure their brakes are working.

In 2014 two people were killed when the brakes failed on a Cleanaway garbage truck on the South Eastern Freeway. Last month Cleanaway was found guilty of charges related to workplace safety offences, with courts hearing that the driver of the truck had not been adequately trained and that the trucking company knew the truck’s brakes were faulty.

TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ian Smith slammed the SA Government for ignoring the coroner’s demands which is putting lives at risk. He called for a designated truck and bus lane on the freeway.

“It is a miracle that yesterday’s incident did not result in fatalities. There have been several deaths on this stretch of road over the years which have left families devastated. Six years on from the coroner’s forensic look at two deaths on the South Eastern Freeway from truck crashes, there is still a problem which is threatening lives. We demand that the SA Government today set aside funding to ensure training and information for drivers on using the South Eastern Freeway and its arrester beds, as the coroner has called for. We also want the Government to put in place a designated lane on the freeway for trucks and buses,” he said.

“The public are rightly furious to learn that trucks are on the roads with faulty brakes, and in the case of the coroner’s inquest, that drivers aren’t trained properly, are pushed to work while fatigued and are forced to meet unrealistic deadlines. Our industry needs reform to ensure that this stops. Major retailers and manufacturers must be forced to pay enough in transport contracts ensure that their goods are delivered safely. Until this happens lives on the roads will continually be at risk,” Smith added.

The Federal Government tore down an independent tribunal in 2016 which was investigating risks to safety in trucking such as trucks not maintained, and drivers pushed to work fatigued, speed and skip their rest breaks.

Three people were killed in horrific truck incidents in SA over the last week. A man was hit by a truck in Adelaide’s northern suburbs at Ingham’s chicken plant on Monday. On Friday a man was killed after a collision with a truck in South Australia’s south-east. Last Wednesday, a 13-year-old boy was killed after the industrial bin he was sleeping in was emptied by a truck on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.

In the last five years, 885 people have died in truck crashes, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. In the same period, 183 transport workers have died on the job, the highest by far for any industry, according to Safe Work Australia.

The TWU announced earlier this month action in the coming months against some of the biggest global retailers Amazon, Apple and Aldi in a bid to make trucking safer and fairer.

The union is serving claims on over 50 major retailers warning of their responsibility to ensure that they are paying transport operators enough to guarantee that their goods are being delivered safely. The plan for action and protests comes as enterprise agreements for thousands of transport workers expire in the coming months, with operators already revealing they can’t meet modest pay claims because of the squeeze by retailers.

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