Toll cops lashing over US operations

Senator launches swingeing attack on Toll's US operation for its treatment of truck drivers

By Brad Gardner | September 2, 2011

A federal senator has lashed Toll over its treatment of truck drivers in the US, accusing it of enforcing shocking work conditions and employing union busters.

Senator Glenn Sterle, who cut his teeth as an official in the Transport Workers Union, used parliamentary privilege to claim Toll subsidiary FMI is exploiting drivers hauling goods off US ports.

Sterle, who recently travelled to the US to look at its road transport industry, hooked up with the colourful International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union.

The former road train operator claims he found that drivers were denied the use of bathroom and kitchen facilities and were struggling under a paltry minimum wage.

"Literally, the working conditions it imposes on workers are nothing short of disgraceful," Sterle says of Toll.

"I know that sounds hard to believe but the harsh reality is that it is a fact: 40-tonne semi drivers on $A26,500 a year. It is frightening."

Sterle says drivers are forced to relieve themselves on the side of a road or resort to using plastic bottles in their truck. He accused Toll of discriminating against drivers by banning them from using clean indoor toilets.

The former TWU official met 15 drivers on his travels but declined to name them because "Toll has hired a union buster and has started intimidating drivers because they want to address their poor conditions by joining a labour union".

"Despite their hard work to help the company grow and succeed, the Toll Group denies its truck drivers in the US the rights and freedoms its employees in Australia enjoy," Sterle says.

He claims Toll is fighting to prevent drivers from joining the Teamsters, which in the past has been linked to the mafia.

The union is led by the son of former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 and was never seen again.

FMI is a division of Summit Logistics, which Toll took over last year. In an advertisement on its site, FMI says it offers good pay, health coverage, assigned vehicles and paid leave to drivers. Toll has not responded to a request for comment.

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