Long queues greet truck drivers at Visy’s Adelaide warehouse

By: Steve Skinner


Visy leaves drivers queuing for hours on end, despite fatigue management requirements.

Long queues greet truck drivers at Visy’s Adelaide warehouse
Trucks wait in a queue to access Visy's Gepps Cross facility in Adelaide.

 

Truck drivers are being forced to queue for hours on end at Visy’s Adelaide warehouse, despite fatigue management requirements under chain of responsibility law.

On Monday mornings for years, trucks loaded at Visy plants in south-east Australia have had to shuffle up in a queue to get unloaded at Visy’s paper reel warehouse at Gepps Cross in Adelaide’s industrial north.

It is a first-in, first-served system. There are no timeslots.

Drivers have to watch their place in the queue and move up every time the truck at the head of the queue moves into the unloading area.

That truck knows it is time to move in only when the gate opens. The gate automatically closes once the B-double is inside.

If drivers back in the queue haven’t kept an eye out, someone else could jump ahead of them, further prolonging a shuffling process that can take many hours.

Owner//Driver recently observed a queue shuffling process that went on for around six hours for trucks further back in the queue.

This is despite requirements under the chain of responsibility on fatigue, contained in the Heavy Vehicle National Law, which operates in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Section 239 refers to a "duty to ensure drivers can rest in particular circumstances".

One such circumstance is where a facility is unable to advise the truck driver when unloading is to start.

The facility must "take all reasonable steps" to ensure the driver is able to rest – meaning sleep – while waiting for the goods to be unloaded.

The legislation gives an example of reasonable steps as: "Providing a system of notifying the driver when goods can be … unloaded from the driver’s vehicle that does not require the driver to be awake or unreasonably alert."

However, enabling interstate drivers to sleep while they wait has clearly not been happening at Gepps Cross.

At the time of writing there is no knock on the door or phone call or any other communication to let drivers know when it is their turn to be unloaded, other than seeing the gate open after they’ve made it to the head of the queue.

Owner//Driver spoke with several truck drivers who have queued outside the warehouse.

One says it once took him nine hours to shuffle up and get unloaded after arriving in the morning.

Another truckie can top that. He says his record is 12 hours of shuffling up and unloading.

"It’s appalling," one truck driver who has been a regular at the Visy warehouse for a couple of years told Owner//Driver.

"Consideration for the drivers doesn’t exist. If I have to go to Visy at Adelaide I just expect to lose a day."

Another driver describes the situation as "criminal".

"It’s against chain of responsibility or whatever, but what’s the point of the whole thing if chain of responsibility just isn’t policed?"

 

VISY’S RESPONSE

Owner//Driver sent several e-mails to Visy detailing the truck drivers’ concerns and reporting its own observations.Visy responded with:

"Recognising our role within the context of the Chain of Responsibility and in order to facilitate improved driver and vendor practices, Visy has recently re-engineered and re-aligned its entire national subcontractor network. Integral to this process has been:

  • The alignment and ‘partnering’ with selected vendors who are willing to work with Visy, pro-actively, in the resolution of both micro and macro issues
  • The formal engagement of ‘vendors’ through SLA’s (service level agreements) and the incorporation of specific obligations pertaining to Chain of Responsibility, code of practice and legal compliance
  • The alignment of ‘Vendors’, services and home depots.

Drivers arriving and waiting outside of normal site operating hours, when the site is unmanned, should be using truck stops, home depots or demarcated rest areas en-route. These facilities are readily available and it is incumbent on the driver to ensure that they use them.

During site operating hours, vehicles are co-ordinated through the site in a manner and at a pace that is in accordance with Visy’s OHS&E policies."

The comments from Visy refer to a ‘code of practice’.

That code is presumably the Retail Logistics Supply Chain Code of Practice, administered by the Australian Logistics Council (ALC).

Visy Logistics is a recent signatory to that code. The ALC says as a new signatory, Visy Logistics "is following a standard set of audit procedures, including conducting an entry audit".

"Following this, there are a range of requirements set down by ALC to progress the audit process," it says.

The ALC says the Gepps Cross facility has not been audited under the code.

"You will need to discuss further with Visy whether they may be in the future," the ALC says.

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