Horror stories of drivers working 23-hour days, shooting up heroin before getting behind the wheel and operating defect-riddled trucks have emerged after a Unanderra trucking company was charged with 235 fatigue-related breaches.
A number of former McCabe Transport employees contacted the Mercury yesterday after learning the company had been charged with breaches of driver fatigue work diary laws.
The men, who have asked to remain anonymous, have painted an alarming picture of McCabe Transport drivers being forced to travel 7000 kilometres a week, often putting in 18-23 hour days to meet company demands.
If they failed to do so, they were verbally ‘‘abused’’ or subjected to dozens of calls trying to persuade them to ‘‘push on’’, the men alleged.
‘‘If the general public really knew the true story about truck driving, I guarantee not one of you would drive on the public roads,’’ one of the men said.
‘‘Not one of you would cut in front of us because most of the time we’re just on [auto-pilot].’’
He added that he was so fatigued during one trip, he started hallucinating behind the wheel.
The men also alleged it was standard company practice not to include loading and unloading times into their ‘‘work hours’’, in contravention of NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) chain of responsibility legislation.
The former employees, who have several decades’ experience in the trucking industry between them, were allegedly required to drive trucks that had multiple and major defects, including faulty brakes, no lights and issues with the shock absorbers and air bags.
One of the men said drivers were also ‘‘encouraged’’ to follow routes without cameras, checks or weighbridges.
Another claimed McCabe Transport was aware of some drivers taking drugs – in one case shooting up heroin – before getting behind the wheel.
The allegations came after the RMS laid charges against McCabe Transport as a part of an ongoing investigation into heavy vehicle offences under the chain of responsibility legislation state-wide.
Lawyer David King-Christopher said McCabe Transport would be defending the charges and denied the allegations put to the Mercury by former employees.
‘‘The company is not aware of any circumstances as alleged for driving outside of the chain of responsibility requirements or taking drugs,’’ Mr King-Christopher said.
‘‘The company denies those two issues strenuously.’’
The 235 charges relate to four McCabe Transport drivers who allegedly failed to record work time in October, November and December 2011.
None of the four drivers has been charged with any offences relating to the 235 charges brought against McCabe Transport.
‘‘We take a dim view of today’s events and question the utility and the rationale behind transforming these matters into a media event particularly in circumstances where they are before the Local Court of NSW pending judicial determination,’’ Mr King-Christopher said in a statement.
One former employee said it was time operators were scrutinised for forcing their drivers to work in unsafe conditions.
‘‘I know that some [truck drivers] out there give us all a very bad name, but the majority of us are married men, in our late 40s – respectable people who do it for a living,’’ he said.
‘‘But [we’re] exploited day after day, night after night, and there’s not a thing [we] can do about it.’’