Where the fault lies
Is this the year when chain of responsibility kicks into gear big time? Or is it a continuing sad story for those behind the wheel? The Interstater writes
WELCOME TO THE year 2017. Finally, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator ( NHVR) has come out and identified that the so-called chain of responsibility (COR) has been largely used, abused, forgotten, bypassed and has been the joke of the industry since its inception. It’s very heartwarming for the industry to see Sal Petroccitto speak up and acknowledge the pigs’ picnic that has been made of such a potentially huge safety component that could save the lives of so many. So what then? Improve, update, supersede or water down?
Drivers hope it will improve, owner-drivers hope it will update (to include them), WorkSafe would hope it supersedes the current grey areas, and the likes of NatRoad hopes it will be watered down somewhat.
Waiting time is the first and most obvious it would seem, but I see bigger issues in the first instance, but a start is a start.
Waiting times are looked upon as a hard target when really, how hard can it be? Bundy cards have been so available throughout industry as far back as early in the last century.
Not being paid for every minute of time spent waiting is not only ripping off drivers, but it is a bad business practice in that it reduces the earning capabilities of so much expensive equipment.
Fancy not wanting to maximise the ability to increase bottom-line profit due to being too scared to insist on being paid for the driver, when it is the employer who isn’t paying the driver for all that is required of them in carrying out the delivery and pickup of the freight, owned by someone that has a legal obligation to meet the full costs of the transportation from start to finish.
The other elephant in the room is the lost tax dollars that the Australian Tax Office (ATO) is missing out on, both from the driver and the company taxes they are not lining up for as well.
COR is a legally binding requirement for all things carried across the breath of Australia, so how can it not be fixed simply and foolproof when the technology is so readily available en masse.
Now, back to the number one issue where COR bumps hard into fatigue management … think sleep.
Beings it is now 2017, any reasonable person would expect that the sleeping environment be paramount in today’s search for a safer road network. That’s especially so when it comes to people (drivers) having to transgress distances of more than 700km overnight without any chemical enhancement to ward off the normal human desire to partake in sleep after 11pm and until 5am.
I have been advocating the COR requirement of engine-off airconditioning for all long-haul trucks for as long as this column has been written. The use of a work diary is required for any long-distance driving, so any reasonable person would also expect that the use of that work diary would also include the need for sleeping quarters (a bunk), and engine-off air-con, plus curtains around the windscreen area to create a cool and dark environment to facilitate fatigue management.
How hard is it? Isn’t that why we have the NHVR?
Surely I’m not the only one who cringes when they see a day cab doing interstate work? Be it changeovers or straight through, it is the modern curse and flies in the face of safety.
How any self-respecting driver can belittle their worth by allowing themselves to be party to such a diabolical scenario is beyond those of us that fight hard to lift this industry out of the 1950s and ’60s.
OUT OF POCKET
The other equally important issue the NHVR should have on its list of things to look into is making the work diary also the pay sheet that all truck drivers are paid on. Having payment advice stapled to the pages of the work diary would satisfy anyone looking to find out the honest truth of who is actually loading and unloading each and every load, how long it takes, and how that affects the safe carriage of all freight.
It would also highlight exactly how ‘not being paid for all we do’ has a detrimental effect on road safety.
There is no denying that, in many truck crashes, it is a direct result of the underpayment of wages to drivers that creates the need for drivers to push beyond their capabilities. Point being, if drivers were paid for all the loading, unloading, fuelling and waiting time alone, they would be less likely to do so many hours behind the wheel to make up the shortfall in weekly take-home pay.
Not paying the Award is theft. It is stealing from employees and it is illegal, make no mistake about that.
It’s well overdue to see the NHVR ensure drivers are not being placed into an unsafe scenario because they are being ripped off, and the best way to do that is to subpoena the pay records of anyone involved in a truck crash, which could be a large underlying contributor to the crash.
This year will again see drivers carting roughly more than 50 per cent extra freight for little in additional wages. Imagine every lick of freight that you carted last year on the A-trailer being stacked neatly in the middle of the Tarcutta change station. Can you even get your head around that scenario?
Now look at all that freight stacked up there in front of you. Let’s say that you grossed $85k for the calendar year 2016. Are you aware that about $80k of that was for towing the B-trailer? Because all you received for your efforts in loading and unloading and chasing around after that A-trailer was less than $5000.
How is that, you ask? It’s usually accepted that the difference between a single semi driver on interstate and a B-double driver is roughly two cents per kilometre extra.
So now we have 859km from the top of the Westgate Bridge to Wetherill Park, NSW, so at one cent per kilometre you would get another $8.59. At two cents you’d be getting a grand total of $17.18 for the privilege of carting another 12 pallets, plus the joy of running around picking it all up, and dropping it off, being that the higher percentage of drivers don’t get paid for any pick up and deliveries.
For those that wish to argue that it is built into the kilometre rate, we all know that is a long refuted fallacy.
So, $17.18 multiplied by five nights equals $85.90 per week extra. Really?
Let’s say that we drive for 48 weeks of the year. That gives us $4123.20 per year for carting all that freight that squeezes into an A-trailer. All those extra gear changes, all that extra waiting time, all those split deliveries, the extra unpaid time standing at the bowser fuelling it all up.
Perhaps we are lucky enough to have the joy of fuelling two fridge motors? Unhooking the back trailer, backing an extra one onto the dock after first moving the box back, of course.
So how much longer are we going to sit back and be used, abused and fined for towing around 12 more pallets? It goes a long way to negate the foolishness of towing 48 and 52-foot trailers now.
It’s the same with the inconvenience of towing those 4.6m-high tautliners too. Why do we continue to do so much without being paid properly for it? Let’s change the future in 2017. It’s all up to you. No-one else can bring common sense to the industry but you.
Finally, one very important measure that the NHVR needs to do is stop listening to the wrong people. It is ludicrous to think they would take any advice from anyone involved with any of the employer associations.
There are so many reliable, unbiased sources they have at their disposal where the right path to take in the pursuit of safety is concerned.
For example, NatRoad is currently trying to re-write the history books in relation to the Yass Blockade. They were dead against it, as were the Transport Workers Union (TWU), but they are now trying to blame the TWU for it when it was all about mum and dad owner-drivers getting better rates back then. But the National Transport Federation ( NTF), later to become NatRoad, was doing the same as Natroad has done to the mums and dads by stopping the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
It’s all about looking after the large transport companies at the expense of the single truck operator. Wake up, people.