En route to the brink
Long-haul drivers are being pressured, both emotionally and financially, to the point of no return. Rod Hannifey writes
ELECTRONIC WORK diaries are coming. They are mandatory in the US from December this year and I see all manner of people telling us here how they will improve road safety.
These people will, of course, never be monitored by such devices themselves as they are not truck drivers. It is the ageold problem of someone telling someone else how to do a job better, even though they could not or would not do it themselves.
Telematics providers sell all this stuff now and many companies use it. Yes, they do provide the same or similar level of scrutiny, but are often monitored by the company, many of whom have either come through trucks, or at least understand some of the issues, or simply have some empathy for their employed drivers. It’s true, though, that not all companies, bosses and/or drivers are the same.
There is the argument from some companies that drivers will cheat them and we simply cannot pay an hourly rate because the drivers will dawdle and take longer, therefore costing them more money.
I see all this as having one aim – to micromanage drivers down to the ‘nth’ degree. Some drivers need to be managed, I agree, but nowhere have I seen or read that drivers who already do the right thing will be in any way rewarded for their efforts.
So if we are to treat and pay good, skilled drivers the same as the walk-in-off-the-street untrained driver, good or possibly bad (they will only find out after it has cost them a mint), what incentive is there for doing the right thing?
Personal pride on a job well done is nice, but it won’t feed the family and pay the bills. If you are going to be monitored so you can’t take a two-minute detour to get a better meal or access the nearly nonexistent shade you might crave on a hot day, then why should you try your best for the company?
Are we really trying to create people who are ‘just drivers’? I think that is the way it is going.
The authorities have been sold the line that if you can micromanage drivers all the time, there will be no crashes. What a load of rot. What about the crashes the truck driver is not responsible for? What is being done about that for our safety? Nearly nothing.
Let’s have more Safe-T-Cams so we can force drivers to drive when tired and sleep when fit. When the autonomous trucks do come, they will work well with such a system. But we are humans; a seemingly sometimes forgotten fact – and each of us is different.
How many of you have met a driver who says “I go to work to drive tired and have a crash” or “I go to work to break the law and earn huge fines so my family will go hungry”?
How many of those who control the laws and penalties for our industry have done the job? Yet they will all tell us how to do it, when to sleep, and when to drive.
Don’t worry about no rest areas, no shade and no toilets. Meanwhile they have these facilities on every floor or outside every office.
How do we fight such overzealous regulation even when we must truly hope the intention is to have safer roads?
Why are motorists still not taught to share the road with trucks when over 70 per cent of fatal crashes between cars and trucks are the fault of the car?
There is yet another as too often overlooked side of this, and that is the pressure drivers operate under on the roads today. Truck drivers face it more than any other group.
We drive bigger vehicles, someone expects the freight delivered, someone else wants to make a profit (there are likely a few more up the chain that do little to earn it) and someone else wants it done their way under their rules.
However, no one wants to supply the facilities we need and the education motorists need to help us be safe.
This can lead to drivers having no one to turn to. They become estranged from their families and, yes, they have mates on the road, but it’s not the same.
They spend very little time with their loved ones, so who do they turn to for help when it all turns to crap?
I rang two mates for a new year catch up and both told me they had gone through a marriage breakup, though in different circumstances. Both had seriously considered taking their own lives but for the love of their children.
All of us feel the pressures of everyday life – everyone does one way or another.
But we, as long- haul drivers, tend to be on the fringe of everything – groups, friends, clubs and even industry associations, let alone our own families.
On speaking to both these blokes, I asked if they sought help. Neither had, and yet both knew of Trans- Help.
Thank goodness they got past the worst on their own, but others often won’t for a number of reasons.
Who is there for such blokes, who really cares what happens to them, and what can we do about it?
Have you been down this road and survived? Who helped you and, from your experience, is there a way to help others before they get that far down the path that they may go all the way?
If you have an answer or suggestion please offer it up, even if only anonymously to the editor, and maybe you can help save another driver’s life.
Please think about it and if you are heading down that path, for the sake of all you love, get some help. Trans-Help, Lifeline, beyondblue and others may be able to help.
“I go to work to break the law and earn huge fines”