Toll slugs loyal subbies with double blow at Brisbane DC

Buy a new Euro 5 or 6 prime mover within 21 days or don’t bother coming back.

That’s the distressing new directive one Brisbane sub-contractor says he’s received from his employer of 10 years, Toll Contractor Logistics.

An Australia-wide Toll Grocery standard came into effect on February 1 this year demanding sub-contractors on the Coles contract update all equipment to modern standards.

But the despairing subbie, who runs one older truck out of the busy Parkinson DC, says he was only given three weeks to comply, despite Toll’s policy saying subbies have 90-days to update their gear.

“I was told, get a new truck or get out, you’re finished,” said the small fleet operator, who didn’t want to be named for fear of jeopardising a resolution for himself, and the other subbies also impacted by the order.

“When I rang to ask why I was given 21-days [to become compliant] when others got three months, I was told ‘don’t’ care, not our problem’.

“These guys don’t give a rats arse.”

The operator said he was trying to do the right thing by Toll and upgrade his truck but says he hasn’t been given fair warning.

“I have made numerous attempts to talk to site managers, but only once has he returned my call and said he would get back to me.

“That was about three weeks ago, and I have left five more messages since with no reply, in an effort to clarify whether my truck was under a 90-day notice.

To compound the issue, the operator says there has also been a dramatic reduction in pallet rate payments to contractors recently, from between 20-45 per cent, he says.

“I would have approximately $1400 less pay [each week], but am still expected to fund a new truck,” he said.

When Big Rigs tried to contact Aaron Louws, Toll Global Logistics national compliance manager – Coles, for some answers, he palmed us off to head office.

They told us via email that the 21 days wasn’t a deadline for implementing changes (or replacing a vehicle) but rather for contractors to share their plans for complying, “within a mutually agreed timeframe for implementing the changes”.

“This fleet renewal program is one of the many initiatives Toll has underway to improve road safety and improve our environmental footprint for the benefit our employees, customers and the broader community,” the statement adds.

“Recognising that achieving these outcomes is a shared responsibility with Toll and our valued partners, these new standards will apply to both company-owned and subcontractor fleet.

“We are working in partnership with our subcontractors through this transition, including working through reasonable time frames to undertake any upgrades to fleet that are needed to meet the new standards.”

But another operator we spoke to who operates three trucks at Parkinson said the compliance order combined with the recent pay cuts have made fleet upgrades unworkable, and he’s walking away this month after almost 13 years at the DC.

“With the rate cuts I’m down $3000 per week doing the same work, and they want us to buy new trucks; it’s just a joke,” he said.

“All I can see is that they want us out. You can be waiting around now on some shifts for five hours before a second run.”

The operator said he had asked for an extension of the compliance deadline to see how the new rates impacted his bottom line, but he said he was given a firm no from management.

“I’m not sticking around to get screwed over.”

In a hard-hitting reponse on his Facebook page on the Toll ultimatum, WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle, a former truckie himself, said “I guarantee, bottom feeders will move in”.

“These will be the ones who own the trucks but employ drivers on contract. That is the illegal system of demanding the driver has an ABN. If freight rates are reduced by between 25-60% there is no way drivers will be paid properly.

“I have spoken to a number of the effected subbies and I can assure you they are devastated that Tolls and Coles have done this to them.

“I will bet my last dollar that Coles won’t be passing these huge savings onto their customers.

Sterle said the Coalition has given multi-nationals the tools to continually “kick the “living shit” out of hard-working owner-drivers and small businesses.

“It just stinks more when the top end of town revel in these twisted and sick opportunities. We need laws to stop this white collar theft. The top of the supply chain must be held accountable. Something’s gotta give.

“Hey Coles – how does this behaviour fit into your road safety message?”

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