Truck drivers working for Coles have been involved in illegal practices because of unfair pressure from the supermarket giant, a union claims.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has taken what it says is evidence of the illegal practices of Coles truck drivers to police and regulators.

Using handwritten logbooks, the TWU audited three companies at the Coles Distribution Centre at Eastern Creek in Sydney between July last year and April this year.

The union’s NSW secretary, Michael Aird, said all three transport companies — Northline, Lindsay Transport, and Parry Logistics — broke the rules.

“We found around 126 breaches from a very small sample,” Mr Aird said.

“We believe that’s entirely consistent across the Coles supply chain across the country.

“There are thousands of truck movements week in week out in the Coles supply chain that is being performed in an unsafe manner and in an unlawful manner, and it’s those practices that directly lead to deaths and injuries on our roads.”

The union has placed the blame squarely on the supermarket chain, saying the company is putting too much pressure on its supply chain.

Mr Aird said punishing individual drivers was not the solution to the problem.

“If you just blame the truck driver there’ll be another driver there the next day,” Mr Aird said.

“This is brought about by economic pressure from Coles.”

The TWU has proposed a temporary amnesty to allow drivers to come forward and report breaches.

Drivers say they’re under pressure to break the law

The biggest problems identified in the audit were drivers skipping rest breaks, cutting them short, and using their rest breaks to load or unload.

John Waltis, a union member who has been driving for 40 years, said drivers across the industry were under increased pressure to speed and break the law.

“Because if they don’t make their delivery time, then they don’t get a load and if they miss a load every second day, that’s about two to three thousand dollars out of pocket,” Mr Waltis, who does not drive for Coles, said.

“They won’t put food on their families’ tables, they won’t keep their truck maintained properly.”

The results of the audit have been passed to police and the NSW regulator, with the names of drivers redacted.

Roads and Maritime Service’s safety and compliance director Peter Wells said the organisation would investigate the matter.

“We’re always on the look out for anything that points to bad practice, so the information from the TWU is very useful in that regard and we’ll pursue that in great detail,” Mr Wells said.

He said Coles was not the only company who had pressured drivers into illegal practices.

“All the distribution centres we’ve gone to, we found had significant problems, so that includes the Coles site, but it’s true for the others as well.”

Coles declined an opportunity to be interviewed, but said in a written statement that the TWU’s claims were “malicious and completely false”.

The statement said Coles takes the safety of drivers and other road users very seriously.

Extracted in full from ABC.