‘What’s in it for me?’

Gov­ern­ments are us­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of oblig­ing foot sol­diers to bring truck own­ers and driv­ers to their knees. Ken Wilkie writes

Owner Driver - - News - KEN WILKIE has been an owner-driver since 1974, af­ter first get­ting be­hind the wheel at 11. He’s on his eighth truck, and is a long-time Owner//Driver con­trib­u­tor. He cov­ers Rock­hamp­ton to Ade­laide and any point in be­tween. His cur­rent am­bi­tion is to see

THE NAME of Aus­tralia’s new na­tional an­them: ‘What’s in it for me?’. Seventy-five odd years ago the na­tion was saved by the self­less sac­ri­fice of those poor young men who suf­fered the hor­ror and in­dig­nity of Kokoda. They were not on their own in their de­ter­mi­na­tion to put the coun­try’s well­be­ing be­fore their own, and they were not on their own in their ef­forts to save our na­tion.

But their sac­ri­fice was the more poignant thanks to the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment they op­er­ated in. It was more poignant be­cause of their age and an ab­sence of real train­ing for the sit­u­a­tion they had to con­front. Their sac­ri­fice was more poignant be­cause their lead­ers had the self­ish, ig­no­rant stu­pid­ity to sug­gest that their ef­fort and out­come was ag­gra­vated by their lack of courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion. That’s self- cen­tred lead­er­ship.

Seventy- some­thing years ago our lead­er­ship was the weak link in our na­tional ef­forts. What has changed? Only the de­gree, I sug­gest.

Back then, the per­cent­age of num­bers of lead­ers in re­la­tion to rank and file was a frac­tion of what it is to­day. Be­yond the work­place health and safety in­dus­try, the only other growth in­dus­try in this na­tion is bu­reau­cracy. We have no man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try thanks to the ‘what’s in it for me’ men­tal­ity that has made in­dus­try in the na­tion non- com­pet­i­tive.

Politi­cians pan­der to bureaucrats. Big busi­ness pan­ders to bureaucrats. Or is big busi­ness just bu­reau­cracy not in the gov­ern­ment em­ploy?

The third next growth in­dus­try is un­em­ploy­ment. The first two growth in­dus­tries are largely re­spon­si­ble for the third. To that end, the first two growth in­dus­tries are ably sup­ported by the ‘what’s in it for me’ syn­drome that has be­come the lead­ing na­tional fashion stakes.

The Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion ( NTC) ad­vo­cates per­for­mance- based stan­dards – which is making small busi­ness largely non- com­pet­i­tive, making the play­ing field even less level. The NTC ad­vo­cates driver­less trucks – unashamedly a scheme to deny em­ploy­ment to lower ranks.

With the gov­ern­ment making so­cial sup­port less sup­port­ive, are we head­ing to anti- so­cial be­hav­iour driven by a jeal­ous dis­trust of the elite?

In to­tal, all this adds up to a dis­hon­est and un­car­ing so­ci­ety. A ba­sic el­e­ment to a fair and hon­est so­ci­ety, that in­de­fin­able at­tribute called de­cency, is largely out the win­dow. With­out a sense of de­cency we get dis­gust­ing out­comes such as ‘Baked Beans John’. In a fit of im­petu­ous an­noy­ance, John re­moved a food- con­tam­i­nated page from his log book – $5512.

‘Baked Beans John’ came into be­ing through an ac­ci­dent com­pounded by his ig­no­rance in ap­pre­ci­at­ing how ruth­less, cor­rupt and un­car­ing the lead­er­ship of this na­tion can be.

Ow­ing to the ac­ci­dent that in­volved the spilling of baked beans on the sa­cred lie book, John has had to fork out over $5500. That amount of money is prob­a­bly worth three or four times to John than what the bu­reau­crat gets who de­signed the so- called fa­tigue leg­is­la­tion.

That fa­tigue leg­is­la­tion is cor­rupt be­cause it is based on as­sump­tion. It is a tool used by bu­reau­cracy to den­i­grate the grass­roots of the in­dus­try. It is based on the need of bu­reau­cracy to shore up its in­flated salary.

It is cor­rupt be­cause, to date, no de­tailed study has been un­der­taken to de­ter­mine the real cause of heavy ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents. It is al­lowed to be such be­cause em­ploy­ers and in­dus­try man­age­ment do not have the de­cency to see past their ‘what’s in it for me’ men­tal­ity. It is cor­rupt be­cause the NTC is so keen for the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion to con­tinue that it re­fuses, point blank, to pub­licly ad­vo­cate proper un­bi­ased ex­am­i­na­tion of each and ev­ery truck ac­ci­dent to de­ter­mine real cause.


The NTC seems more con­cerned about how truck driv­ers can be made a thing of the past by util­is­ing driver­less tech­nol­ogy. To this end, they are rid­ing on the coat­tails of bu­reau­cracy who de­vise un­work­able fa­tigue leg­is­la­tion. Are they in col­lu­sion or just one and the same?

The leg­is­la­tion is used by en­force­ment peo­ple to paint this in­dus­try’s grass­root op­er­a­tors as ir­re­spon­si­ble and in­com­pe­tent.

The ‘Baked Beans John’ saga is one piece of the tool, one turn of the span­ner.

I haven’t yet had an op­por­tu­nity to ask for a re­view of a breach that has not in­volved the breached hav­ing the min­i­mum or plus re­quired rest overnight. In other words; not one of the ac­cused was fa­tigued and, be­cause they had taken in ex­cess of their pre­scribed rest dur­ing night hours, they were much less vul­ner­a­ble to un­ex­pected fa­tigue im­pair­ment than a driver of a sched­uled overnight op­er­a­tion.

In­dus­try man­age­ment has no an­swer – just the si­lence that is ev­i­dence that the stan­dard is ac­cept­able to it. And again, man­age­ment is overly en­dowed with the ‘what’s in it for me’ men­tal­ity.

Bu­reau­cracy is crit­i­cal of John be­cause he failed to con­sult a lawyer. John, and oth­ers, are of the mis­taken be­lief that some shred of de­cency ex­ists within the bu­reau­cratic ranks.

My ad­vice is along the lines of out of the fry­ing pan and into the fire, which seems to be a case of giv­ing au­then­tic­ity to an im­moral act.

Un­til enough peo­ple stand to have laws that have been de­signed af­ter thor­ough study, there can be no other al­ter­na­tive.

Risk a mam­moth fine or fork out al­most as much for le­gal ad­vice that might re­duce the fine.

Don’t just ring a trans­port depart­ment for ad­vice; they are staffed by bureaucrats. Op­er­a­tors have to make a judge­ment as to which is the least de­mor­al­is­ing. A third ac­tion is to talk to your local politi­cian and de­mand re­spect­fully that they do what they were elected to do: gov­ern for all Aus­tralians. Make them lis­ten to the grass­roots. Make politi­cians jus­tify the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of le­gal pa­ram­e­ters.

I’ll lay money on the vast ma­jor­ity of both bu­reau­cracy and man­age­ment fronting at the next An­zac Day me­mo­rial in all their pi­ous glory.

Es­sen­tially, bu­reau­cracy needs to un­der­mine the cred­i­bil­ity of this in­dus­try to jus­tify its cur­rent ex­is­tence. It is the ba­sis of my call for truth in breach re­port­ing.


Paul Ret­ter of NTC fame brought the word ‘dero­ga­tion’ to my at­ten­tion in his Na­tional Trans­port Re­form Im­ple­men­ta­tion Re­port. Th­ese re­forms are about con­sis­tent and easy-to-un­der­stand laws that help to im­prove na­tional pro­duc­tiv­ity and ad­vance safety within our trans­port ser­vices.

To my way of think­ing, Mr Ret­ter has used a for­mal term to high­light the con­stant de­ter­mi­na­tion of most state bu­reau­cra­cies to deny the im­ple­men­ta­tion of one na­tion, one reg­u­la­tion.

Ge­orge Or­well in Pol­i­tics and the English Lan­guage was crit­i­cal of im­pre­cise, overblown, ob­fus­cat­ing lan­guage which mud­dies think­ing and hides the truth. He claimed that the aim was to make lies sound truth­ful and mur­der re­spectable.

The use of such lan­guage by bu­reau­cracy in re­la­tion to truck op­er­a­tors is de­signed to im­ply the in­dus­try is un­truth­ful and full of ir­re­spon­si­ble peo­ple with an al­most mur­der­ous dis­re­gard for the wel­fare of so­ci­ety.

The Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor’s ( NHVR) Sal Petroc­citto’s be­lieves op­er­a­tors should demon­strate some de­gree of com­pe­tency in busi­ness man­age­ment be­fore be­ing al­lowed to en­ter the trans­port in­dus­try.

Be­fore that is­sue is re­solved and it be­comes an NHVR con­sid­er­a­tion, my de­sire is that he and his team re­lease cur­rent in­for­ma­tion on which states have dero­gated the hopes for na­tional reg­u­la­tion, which reg­u­la­tions are the tools of this dero­ga­tion. And I’m not just re­fer­ring to West­ern Aus­tralia to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory for not be­ing part of NHVR.

I’d like to know which laws have been bas­tardised by which other states’ bu­reau­cra­cies in the per­sonal in­ter­ests of those state bureaucrats. There can be no com­pro­mise on main­te­nance that is safety re­lated.

But who is the id­iot sug­gest­ing ve­hi­cles that have done a mil­lion kilo­me­tres are ‘clunkers’? It sounds like an agent for a new truck man­u­fac­turer. I won­der if the clown has any idea of how many take­off and land­ing se­quences the last air­liner he trav­elled in un­der­took since it first went into ser­vice?

This is­sue demon­strates a lack of in­tel­li­gence, knowl­edge and hon­esty of a whole host of peo­ple.

Again, the true pic­ture will be re­vealed when so­ci­ety has the re­sults of a mean­ing­ful study into heavy ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents.



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