With current Covid restrictions ramping up, many truckies are being refused access to toilets at delivery sites; and current processes are making it near impossible for some to adhere to fatigue management rules.
One Sydney driver we spoke to, who preferred not to be named, was handed this letter at Andrews Meat in Lidcombe instructing drivers to “stay in your vehicle at the loading dock”.
It goes on to state, “No access allowed to the warehouse building, including: smoking area, toilets/amenities.”
The truckie, who has been in the driver’s seat for over 20 years, said, “I received that letter yesterday. I said you can’t give me this letter, it’s illegal and they told me it’s coming from their big boss. If they don’t want us in the warehouse, that’s fair enough, but they have to allow access to facilities, it’s part of fatigue management.
“From when Covid restrictions first started last year, truckies are always getting treated like dogs. And it’s getting worse. There was one place I went to in Sydney last year where I had a massive dummy spit and told them that if they didn’t have a toilet or a place to make tea or coffee, I won’t deliver there.
“If I’ve been driving for 10 or 11 hours and get to a loading dock where they take 2-3 hours to unload you, what do they expect you to do.
“Up here in Sydney, it’s been getting really bad. I have an essential worker letter but cops are going stupid, especially with truck drivers. If we didn’t have masks on at a border checkpoint, they were fining us even though we were in the trucks.”
And it’s not just access to toilet facilities that have been a major issue throughout the pandemic, fatigue management is also impacted, with the many additional processes now in place – including excessive Covid testing queues – meaning truckies are finding it even harder to take their required breaks.
This driver shared a copy of the ‘Chain of Responsibility & Covid-19 Driver Declaration’ form truckies are required to fill in before entering a Woolworths distribution centre, which states that a driver must have “a minimum of 3 working hours to be available when entering the DC.”
“And if you refuse to fill it out, you’re not allowed on site. Other supermarkets are the same. Sometimes they leave us here beyond our documented legal hours but we can’t do anything about it or we’re sent offsite. Last week I was at Woolworths Minchinbury for 4.5 hours. I said, with all due respect, you can’t legally do this. If you’re keeping us here longer than you need to and then we leave here and have an accident, then that’s on you as part of chain of responsibility,” the truckie said.
“Because of all of this Covid stuff and everything drivers now have to go through, fatigue management goes out the window. If you get to a site and they’re busy or running behind, you could be there for 4-5 hours and you’re still on work time, because you’re still in the driver’s seat. Some days this puts you over your hours, so what do they expect you to do. With the construction industry shut down, all the local construction operators have parked up their trucks, so the streets are clogged up and the service stations are full too – so it’s hard to even find somewhere to park and take your break.
“Another issue we’re having is that because we can’t go into a lot of the warehouses, they’re loading up our trucks and aren’t doing it properly. Some of the trucks don’t have weigh gauges and there are many times I’ve gone to a weighbridge and realised they’ve overloaded me, and then had to go back.
“I’ve always enjoyed driving but the industry has changed and there’s just so much pressure on drivers. Supermarkets want their stock and it doesn’t matter how they get it.”
Andrews Meat has been approached for comment.