The Transport Workers’ Union of Australia (TWU) has challenged Coles to a public debate on the continuing high number of deaths and injuries from truck crashes across the country.

The challenge came after Coles took issue with the Union’s claims on safety yesterday.  According to TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon, “Coles have disputed the facts that we have laid out to the public with regard to the number of deaths and injuries on our roads.  A number of our veteran members across the country spoke with Coles customers and members of the public yesterday to highlight the practices of the company, which are squeezing the life out of truckies.”

The huge safety crisis on our roads caused by the major retailers is backed up by the latest fatal heavy vehicle quarterly bulletin, published in April.  The report showed that between July and September 2011, the number of deaths from truck crashes increased significantly in two states.  It increased by a huge 75% in South Australia, and 22.6% in Queensland. (See Notes Below).

Tony Sheldon says, “This is further evidence of the crisis we are facing.  Coles need to stop quibbling and sit down and work with Unions and government to solve the problem.”

“I challenge Coles to a public debate to put all of these issues on the table.  We are not afraid to debate the facts. We have had more than 20 years of cross party reports, inquiries and coronial reports which have identified the link in the transport industry between safety and rates of pay. The dangerous conditions and excessive hours demanded by major retailers such as Coles are directly responsible for the carnage on our roads.”

“An average of 330 people are killed and more than 5,300 are injured each year on our roads as a result of heavy vehicle incidents. This crisis on our roads is devastating families and communities and costs the Australian taxpayer more than $2.7 billion each year.”

Tony Sheldon also condemned Coles’ call yesterday for the Union to report individual drivers to the authorities.

“In response to our action yesterday, Coles have not only disputed the facts, but also called on the TWU to report drivers to the authorities. What a shameful response from a multi-billion dollar company.  Rather than face up to their responsibility and try to deal constructively with the real issues, they call for a witch-hunt of truckies, who are risking their lives to meet Coles’ unreasonable deadlines,” says Tony.