Stern message to truck drivers
NSW government cracks down on high-profiled companies such as Coles and Woolworths after reviewing industry practices. Nine News.PT0M28S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2zsnh 620 349 December 22, 2013
Coles and Woolworths are among leading companies warned by the NSW government to make sure truck drivers are not risking lives to meet tight delivery deadlines.
Government officials are acting after unsafe industry practices were revealed in a series of high-profile trucking disasters, including one that killed two people when a petrol tanker rolled over and burst into flames in Mona Vale in October.
Before thousands of NSW drivers take to the roads for the Christmas holidays, the state government also released grim statistics about a sweep last month of more than 6000 trucks registered in Victoria.
The operation found more than 500 brake faults and more than 200 steering and suspension faults; defect notices were issued at a rate of 2½ times more than for trucks registered in NSW.
In ramping up a campaign to target speeding and unsafe trucks, government officials have spread their net beyond transport firms to focus on their big customers.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the government was increasingly prepared to warn and prosecute directors of companies that set deadlines that force drivers to break the law. "We've talked to everyone," he said.
Asked if this included Coles and Woolworths, the country's biggest retailers, Roads and Maritime Services director of customer and compliance Peter Wells said: "It is more than just the big two. There are other supermarkets, beverage companies, that sort of thing."
Paul Endicott, the general manager of compliance operations for RMS, said: "A number of very large corporations and their directors have been served with improvement notices that demand they improve their compliant behaviour. By serving or notifying directors, it clearly puts them on notice they are personally responsible.
"I haven't issued improvement notices with the big supermarkets, no, but we've had discussions, very co-operative discussions, with them."
Senior officials from NSW Police and RMS also revealed widespread differences in the quality of heavy vehicles registered in different states. An operation last month showed trucks registered in Victoria were 2½ times more likely to have serious faults on them than trucks registered in NSW.
NSW drivers are exposed to risks because Victoria is home to some of the country's biggest trucking firms, and the vehicles regularly drive through this state.
The RMS and police operation last month, "Common Health", examined 6441 Victorian-registered trucks and issued defect notices on 1170 of them. The notices included 556 brake faults and 248 steering and/or suspension faults.
NSW officials say there has been a 79 per cent drop in the number of speeding trucks since the clampdown started last year.
Systemic problems with the country's trucking fleet have emerged after a series of fatal accidents in the past two years.
After truck driver Vincent George from Lennons Transport crashed into a car on the Hume Highway in January 2012, killing three, authorities started to investigate the widespread tampering of "speed limiters" that should prevent trucks travelling at more than 100km/h.
Several firms have since been prosecuted for tampering with their limiters, including Victoria's Logistics 1, which was fined $260,000, Victorian outfit Damorange, forced to pay $100,000, and NSW firm Preston's Leeton ($100,000).
October's double fatality in Mona Vale, when a Cootes petrol tanker ran out of control down a hill, highlighted the discrepancies in the compliance of trucking companies in different states. NSW authorities have since threatened to ground the entire Cootes fleet, which is the biggest fuel distributor in the country and has its headquarters in Victoria.
Mr Gay has also warned the directors of Cootes they could be liable for prosecution under chain-of-responsibility legislation.
A spokesman for Coles said the supermarket chain did not employ its own transport drivers but worked with large and reputable firms like Linfox and Toll that had the best safety records in the industry.
‘‘We take our responsibilities very seriously which is why we work with the best suppliers and make safety an integral part of our relationship with regular audits and monitoring to ensure compliance,’’ the Coles spokesman said.
‘‘As you would expect given our focus on safety we talk to the authorities regularly about the industry and how we can maintain our safety record. The NSW RMS confirmed that no enforcement notices were issued to Coles during their recent campaign despite more than a thousand notices being issued for vehicle faults. We are never complacent but this shows that our suppliers are as focused on safety as we are,’’ he said.
A spokeswoman for Woolworths underlined the retailer’s good safety record and noted that no compliance notices had been issued to the company.