Complaints from drivers and the Transport Workers Union about a giant trucking company and operator who apparently ignore the sleep needs of long distance drivers have emerged on trucking website Fullyloaded.com.au.
The company has been accused of neglecting the sleep requirements of their long distance drivers at a regional depot at Shepparton in Victoria, which is also the home town of the company’s late founder, Richard Pratt.
Drivers say they don’t have anywhere to sleep at the depot and a small “demountable building” with only a fold-down couch and no window coverings or door is expected to pass for a “bunkroom”. The space also has no heating or cooling.
The “bunkroom” is apparently next to the depot’s dining room, frequented all day by local drivers and the rest of the company’s staff. An open doorway separates the 2 spaces, making it impossible for long distance drivers to get any sleep because of all the noise and activity.
The Shepparton depot is regularly visited by Brisbane-based B-Double drivers and other long-distance drivers but these workers apparently aren’t being accommodated adequately.
The Brisbane drivers have also complained that they often have to wait for trailers to arrive and be loaded, in these instances if the truck isn’t being used as a yard tug, they sleep in their truck bunks.
The drivers have also complained about having to wait for repairs and maintenance work to be done to their vehicles, either on site or at nearby dealerships. They say the dealership has a bunkroom but because it is above the workshop, it is loud, so sleeping there is difficult.
In the past drivers were able to book a motel room if their vehicle was being serviced, but the company has stopped this and for Brisbane based drivers that must get back on the road at the end of the day, sleep is crucial.
In the post on Fullyloaded.com.au, drivers were quoted who said they were fatigued before they even started on the road because they can’t sleep when the vehicle is being worked on, even if they have been driving all night before arriving at the Shepparton depot. One driver exclaimed:
“We walk around the yard, kick stones, talk to the boys to see what’s going on, talk to the workshop to see what needs doing to the truck, sit around in the smoko room. That’s about all we can do,” the driver says.
Instead of a bed, drivers are provided with a couch, of which the driver says,
“You’re lucky if you get 40 minutes sleep”.
The company’s management when asked about when they are going to upgrade the sleeping facilities say they are “working on it” but drivers say nothing seems to be done.
The truckie went on to state:
“You’ve got to drive after walking around all day, try to get the maximum hours in and get the distance up the road so you can get to Brisbane on time.
“But a couple of times I’ve thought, ‘f… this, I’m going to bed, I’m going to have to do this tomorrow and make a big day out of it’, and even cheat on my logbook to get there.
“I know other drivers who do the same.”
TWU organiser Daryl Coghill said he has been visiting the site for 8 years and things have been getting worse at the depot since the current company took over 4 years ago.
Mr Coghill highlighted that Chain of responsibility legislation requires companies to take all reasonable actions to make sure drivers are rested and not exposed to risk and fatigue. He says this is not happening at the Shepparton depot in question. He explained,
“From my experience in talking to management, the care factor would be very close to zero. It just shows you that parts of the industry haven’t progressed at all.”