A Senate inquiry has heard of horrific crashes and safety problems in the transport industry. Picture: TRUDY BROWN
A Senate inquiry has heard of horrific crashes and safety problems in the transport industry. Picture: TRUDY BROWN

‘Shot at, maimed’: Horror life of truckies

Horrific deaths from truck crashes and armed hold-ups of cash-carrying security guards are among the major concerns flagged in a Senate inquiry on Monday examining the safety of truck drivers.

The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee is hearing a Senate inquiry into the "importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry".

A garbage truck driver in the Randwick area described the horrible working conditions that have arisen out of ultra-competitive bids to win contracts.

He applauded Randwick Council for mandating that companies who win a contract transfer the same working conditions and safety from the previous contract holder.

"My experience has been positive but is one in a thousand (rare)," the garbage truck driver told the inquiry.

"I've seen and heard horror story after horror story. Companies come in at lower prices to win contracts.

"When this happens, conditions are cut and the workers like me end up paying the price."

He told the inquiry of defective vehicles used by Chatswood-based waste management company United Resource Management.

"URM is one company notorious for winning contracts on low prices and cutting corners when it does. URM undercuts drivers' pay, reduces crew sizes to just two drivers - meaning you don't have an offsider spotting - uses cheap and poorly maintained vehicles and anything it can do to save a buck," the man said.

"The result is they've had a shocker of a safety record … I know of at least two people killed on URM contracts, one poor woman who had a grandchild in a stroller and another homeless man who was run over in a gutter.

"The RMS came in to investigate and found 30 (or more) of their vehicles were defective."

At a press conference prior to the Senate inquiry, cash-in-transit worker Noel Blue told of the physical and psychological effects of his colleagues being involved in armed hold-ups.

He referenced the 2018 hold-up at Clemton Park in Sydney's southwest, during which men with rifles jumped out of a Volkswagen Golf and threatened guards of an armoured truck.

Neither of the guards were physically injured in the hold-up.

CCTV footage of the 2018 armed robbery at Clemton Park. Picture: NSW Police
CCTV footage of the 2018 armed robbery at Clemton Park. Picture: NSW Police

"My colleagues have been involved in over 130 robberies, lastly at Clemton Park," he said. "I know two gentlemen (who were involved). They weren't treated correctly after the robberies and they're still suffering from it.

"I've watched my colleagues (suffer) whiplash, be shot at, killed, maimed. It's a dangerous job we do."

Mr Blue said, like garbage truck workers, the problem was competition for contracts.

The 2018 Clemton Park armed robbery.
The 2018 Clemton Park armed robbery.

"Contracts are given out by banks and supermarkets to CIT (cash in transit) companies who fight for that business," he said.

"Every year, the banks and supermarkets want the prices to decrease while all our (companies') costs go up.

"There's a constant pressure on road crew to work harder, work longer.

"It can't go on and we need government intervention. We need safe standards and rates."

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said in a statement that since 2017, 841 people have died in truck crashes nationally - including 182 truck drivers.

TWU also pointed to a major survey of truck drivers by Monash University last week that revealed truck driving was also a significantly unhealthy profession.

The survey claimed more than 80 per cent of drivers were overweight or obese, with one in five suffering from depression.

Originally published as 'Shot at, maimed': Horror life of truckies


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