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TWU calls for broader reforms after Cleanaway verdict

Magistrate finds company guilty on eight health and safety counts


A guilty verdict against Cleanaway following the deaths of two people on Adelaide’s South Eastern Freeway in 2014 highlights the need for reform of the trucking industry, according to the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU).

The waste company is found guilty in the Adelaide Magistrates Court of eight breaches of its health and safety duty related to such shortfalls as a lack of driver training and brake maintenance failure.

The charges relate to workplace safety offences with courts over the years hearing that the driver of the truck had not been adequately trained and that the trucking company knew the truck’s brakes were faulty.

Evidence was given that the truck driver Darren Hicks, who was in his first week of work with the firm and who lost a leg in the incident that took two lives, had been trained only for automatic trucks when the one he drove was a manual and that he had informed the company of his concerns about the route.

“As the operator of heavy vehicles, the defendant ought reasonably to have known of the risk to heavy vehicles of brake failure on long downhill routes and the importance of gear selection in a manual vehicle to control the speed of the vehicle and also the importance of ensuring the competence of drivers to undertake such descents,” magistrate Simon Smart states in his verdict. 

TWU SA/NT branch secretary Ian Smith backs the guilty verdict but says that the entire supply chain should be investigated.

The union has often been at odds with the company, over this issue and others, and the regional branch agitated in 2019 for a new police and WorkSafe SA probe into its operations following reports that brake issues were known to the firm.

Read TWU reaction to recent Cleanaway management and safety reports, here

“We welcome the guilty verdict against Cleanaway which has come far too many years after this tragedy occurred,” Smith says.

“Families and communities have been devastated by this crash and it has taken over six years for this verdict.

“While welcome, this guilty verdict will not prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again.

“Every day there are similar issues occurring on our roads around the country, where trucks are not maintained, drivers are not adequately trained and are pushed to speed, work long hours and drive fatigued.

“If we want to see an end to tragedies like this then we need to put in place a body which can prevent truck crashes and which can investigate risks to safety in trucking.”

The union notes that the verdict, that is reportedly may be appealed, comes on the week of the five-year anniversary of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT).

Though hugely divisive within the industry, it states that the independent tribunal was investigating risks to safety in trucking, including the waste industry.

“It was looking at training, pay rates and the pressure to deliver goods without prioritizing safety,” Smith says.

“Nothing has been put in its place and people are dying as a result.”


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