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Truckies under pressure: freight costs cut by $13m despite huge profit

27 August, 2015

Wesfarmers announced it has cut its freight costs by $13 million at a time when its revenue growth is up 3.8 per cent. Coles' revenues were up two per cent to $38 billion, the results showed.

"This proves the extent to which this wealthy retailer is reducing transport costs and squeezing transport operators and drivers underneath," said Transport Worker’s Union (TWU) National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

"It shows the ruthless side of retailers like Coles. They are choosing to put profits before safety on Australian roads," he added.

Every year around 330 people die in truck-related crashes and this is the reason trucking is Australia's deadliest profession with driver 15 times more likely to die than any other profession.

"By cutting their transport costs they are ultimately responsible for practices which see drivers under pressure to drive faster, for longer with over-loaded vehicles in a stressed and tired state," he said.

"Numerous academic studies, government inquires and coronial reports have proven the link between rates and conditions in the transport industry and road safety. Coles must admit its responsibility in this deadly cycle and agree to prioritise safety," he said.

The TWU is also supporting calls by WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle and NSW Nationals Senator John Williams for transport operators to be paid within 30 days.

"This is another way retailers like Coles are squeezing trucking: by strangling the life out of business by not paying them on time," said Sheldon.

Coles has donated $2.1 million to the Liberal Party, which since it has come to power has said it wants to scrap the body set up to keep drivers safe and which can hold Coles to account - the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

A TWU survey showed drivers in the Coles supply chain experience significant remuneration related pressure finding:

  • 46 per cent of drivers in the Coles supply chain feel pressure to skip breaks,
  • 28 per cent feel pressure to speed
  • 26 per cent feel pressure to carry overweight loads

The National Transport Commission's report on Remuneration and Safety in the Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry (2008) said practices by the retail industry affecting road transport "can play a direct and significant role in causing hazardous practices".

It adds: "There is solid survey evidence linking payment levels and systems to crashes, speeding, driving while fatigued and drug use".

* Wesfarmers reported a 60 per cent increase in profits from continuing operations between 2014-15

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