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"Up to 80" truck-related deaths expected during holiday season

11 December, 2013

Transport Workers Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon recently joined around 200 drivers and their families in an advance memorial for the "up to 80" people who would die in truck-related crashes on Australian roads this Christmas.

Speaking at the memorial in Sydney's Martin Place, Sheldon said major clients such as Coles routinely pressured drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines for Christmas delivery.

"At Christmas, drivers get told to make the deliveries or lose their jobs," he said.

"The consequence is trucks on the road for too long, or going too fast.

"Up to 80 Australians will die in truck crashes this Christmas. Some of these deaths could be prevented if clients stopped pressuring drivers to break the law.

"The drivers' families here today are asking for one gift this Christmas — the certainty that their loved ones will come home after work on Australia's roads."

NSW truck driver John Waltis said he knew drivers who were forced to speed or overload their vehicles just to keep delivery contracts, or who had skipped rest breaks to stay behind the wheel and meet unrealistic delivery times.

"I've been 52 funerals for friends who've worked as drivers. I don't want to go to any more," he said.

Sheldon said while many companies placed unrealistic deadlines on drivers at Christmas, one of the "worst offenders" was supermarket and retailing giant Coles,

A 2012 Industry survey of the Coles supply chain showed: 46 per cent of drivers feel pressure to skip rest breaks; 28 per cent feel pressure to speed; and 26 per cent feel pressure to carry illegally overweight loads.

A recent statement from the TWU identified truck driving as Australia's "most dangerous occupation", with a workplace fatality rate 15 times higher than the national average.

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