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

Owner Driver - - Truck Deals -

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.


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.

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