Weak link at customer end of chain of responsibility

By: Steve Skinner

Consistency lacking in conditions affecting driver fatigue, even at facilities belonging to same firm

Weak link at customer end of chain of responsibility
The queue at Visy’s Gepps Cross facility.


Recent headline chain of responsibility (COR) prosecutions have focused on the exposure of trucking companies and their senior managers.

The relative lack of high-profile action involving other parts of the supply chain has engendered cynicism in the industry about the focus of enforcement.

ATN is looking at the interface between truck and customer in a bid to illuminate the issues involved and where relevant players are at in dealing with them.

We start at the coalface and find that giant Australian paper and packaging company Visy appears to face issues relating to the truck interface at one facility.

The situation has been occurring at Visy’s paper reel warehouse at Gepps Cross in Adelaide’s industrial north.

On Monday mornings for years, trucks loaded at other Visy plants in south-east Australia have had to shuffle up in a queue to get unloaded after the Adelaide warehouse opens for the week at 6am.

It is a first-in, first-served system. There are no timeslots.

Drivers have had to watch their place in the queue and move up every time the truck at the head of the queue moves into the unloading area. That truck knows it is time to move in only when the gate opens. The gate automatically closes once the B-double is inside.

If drivers back in the queue haven’t kept an eye out, someone else could jump ahead of them, further prolonging a shuffling process that can take many hours.

ATN recently observed a queue shuffling process that went on for around six hours for trucks further back in the queue.

All this appears to be in stark contrast to requirements under the COR on fatigue, contained in the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), Queensland version, dated February 10 this year.

Section 239 refers to a "Duty to ensure drivers can rest in particular circumstances".

One such circumstance is where a facility is unable to advise the truck driver when unloading is to start.

The facility must "take all reasonable steps" to ensure the driver is able to rest while waiting for the goods to be unloaded.

And by rest, the legislation means sleep, because it goes on to give as an example of ‘reasonable steps’: "Providing a system of notifying the driver when goods can be … unloaded from the driver’s vehicle that does not require the driver to be awake or unreasonably alert."

However, enabling interstate drivers to sleep while they wait has clearly not been happening at Gepps Cross.

At the time of writing there is no knock on the door or phone call or any other communication to let drivers know when it is their turn to be unloaded, other than seeing the gate open after they’ve made it to the head of the queue.

The situation is much better for interstate truckies at the giant 24/7 Visy pulp and paper mill operation near Tumut in New South Wales.

There’s a demountable building in a large parking area which includes toilet, shower, coffee and kitchen facilities. Drivers get a phone call when it’s their turn to go in.

Look out for the responses of Visy and the Australian Logistics Council in tomorrow’s fullyloaded bulletin.

Check out the full feature in the November issue of ATN.

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