Chain of irresponsibility at Visy Shepparton

By: Steve Skinner


Sleeping area for long distance drivers has no covering on the windows, no heating or cooling and no door

Chain of irresponsibility at Visy Shepparton
The Visy Shepparton sleeping quarters: No heating; no cooling; no linen or blankets; no window coverings; and no door.

 

Giant trucking customer and operator Visy is accused of ignoring the sleep needs of long-distance drivers at one of its regional depots.

Ironically the complaints come from the Visy yard at Shepparton in Victoria, home town of the company’s late founder, billionaire "cardboard king" Richard Pratt.

ATN is told by drivers and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) that there is nowhere for visiting long-distance drivers to sleep at the Shepparton depot.

What passes for a "bunkroom", in a small demountable building, has a fold-down couch with no covering on the windows, no heating or cooling and no door.

That room is right next to the depot dining room, which is used all day by local drivers and other staff. There is an open doorway between the two. We are told that an external sliding door and people talking make sleep next to impossible.

The Visy Logistics depot and warehouse at Shepparton is regularly visited by half a dozen Brisbane-based Visy B-double drivers, amongst other long-distance drivers.

The Brisbane drivers often have to wait for trailers to arrive or be loaded, in which case they can sleep in their truck bunks if they need to.

That’s if their prime mover isn’t being used as a yard tug.

They sometimes also need to wait around the yard during the day for work to be done on their prime movers. This could range from having tyres fitted which might take a couple of hours, to a full service at a nearby dealership which could take all day.

That dealership has a bunkroom but it’s above the workshop.

In any case, including the bobtailing in their logbook would cut into the drivers’ seven hour rest break at each end.

The prime movers are usually delivered by workshop staff.

Drivers say that up until a couple of years ago long distance runners could book ahead for a motel room if they knew something like a service was coming up. But these rooms are no longer available from Visy.

The Brisbane-based drivers usually need to start back north at the end of the day.

One of them told ATN that they are often fatigued before they start, because they can’t sleep when they want to if their prime mover is needed or being worked on.

He says sometimes long distance drivers have been driving all night before arriving at Shepparton.

"We walk around the yard, kick stones, talk to the boys to see what’s going on, talk to the workshop to see what needs doing to the truck, sit around in the smoko room. That’s about all we can do," the driver says.

Of the couch, he says: "You’re lucky if you get 40 minutes sleep".

He says the usual refrain from management about what he describes as the "disgusting" facilities is: "We’re working on that; we’re working on that".

The driver says the fatiguing situation creates extra pressure on the road at night.

"You’ve got to drive after walking around all day, try to get the maximum hours in and get the distance up the road so you can get to Brisbane on time.

"But a couple of times I’ve thought, ‘f... this, I’m going to bed, I’m going to have to do this tomorrow and make a big day out of it’, and even cheat on my logbook to get there.

"I know other drivers who do the same."

Shepparton-based TWU organiser Daryl Coghill says he has been visiting the Visy site for eight years, and has seen things increasingly deteriorate since Visy bought the operation from logistics giant Patrick about four years ago.

"Chain of responsibility requires companies to take all reasonable actions to make sure drivers are rested and not exposed to risk and fatigue," he says.

"From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t appear to be happening at Shepparton.

"From my experience in talking to management, the care factor would be very close to zero. It just shows you that parts of the industry haven’t progressed at all."

Visy did not respond to our requests for comment.

You can read the full story in the September edition of ATN.

 

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