Painting a poor picture
The trucking industry’s image continues to cop a bad rap from the authorities and general public alike, and there appears to be no letup.
ANOTHER MONTH goes by, another blitz, this time on Sydney tippers. From their and our point of view it yielded bad results – too many defects and infringements. The public will see the authorities doing their job of getting dangerous trucks and drivers off the roads, but that is all they will see.
The Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian authorities have all been out on the Hume and Newell keeping us all honest. I visited and chatted with them a number of times and was, as you would expect, bitterly disappointed to have not been called in more.
The following article is from Trucking Info in the United States. I read it after completing my last column and it shows some do understand. However, the writer, Rolf Lockwood, is on the inside and the issue is how we get the public to do what he's asking?
“My mandate with this column has me writing about technology most of the time, but I have a soft spot for drivers and owner- operators, so please bear with me. I think the folks at the sharp end of the trucking stick deserve a little attention, a little understanding.
“Now, ‘delicate’ is not a word you’d ever think of using to describe them. Rough, tough, maybe. But delicate? Yes. The word may be a bit extreme, but lots of drivers manage a very fine balance between simple frustration and outright anger.
“The truth is, slipping over what really is a delicate line is easy, and getting easier every day. Deeper traffic jams, more demanding shippers, endless rules and regs managed by bureaucrats who really don’t seem to understand much or give a darn.
“The potential for boiling over is very, very high. And the consequences? Downright nasty sometimes, almost never good.
“The recent rash of snowy-road pile-ups got me thinking about the case of a driver I’ve known for a long time and some trouble he encountered more than a decade ago.
“My friend is a good guy, a thirdgeneration trucking veteran who’s willing and able to work hard, the kind of fellow who can make repairs on the roadside and who still stops to help another driver in distress.
“All of that said, he admits to having the occasional problem managing his anger.
“So leading up to a tragic event 12 years back that obliterated the delicate psychological balance that he usually managed to maintain, he’d had a rough couple of weeks. Dispatch had been on his case and he’d been on theirs, the classic source of driver frustration. As he put it at the time, he “was already bent out of shape”.
“And then one night he came on a bad wreck. A woman and her baby daughter were nailed by a hit-and-run drunk and he was first on the scene. It was chaos, of course, and the little girl was dead.
"The other details don’t matter, except that a few hours later, he loses it.
“In the yard at the end of his run, he had a meltdown. All the anger and frustration of the previous weeks came out in one big explosion.
"He’d seen countless bad accidents over his many driving years, but this one got him. He went AWOL for the next two weeks.
“When he got back he wrote to tell me this sad tale, at which point he figured he’d lost his job for sure. Didn’t think the boss would even speak to him.
"But the next morning he met the guy and, to his great surprise, found enough sympathy and understanding that all he lost was top spot on the load board. He was pretty grateful.
“He got back to emotional equilibrium because of a generous boss, the strong support of his wife, and several long bull sessions with his trucker chums.
“I think the trucking community at large has to recognise the unique pressures that drivers face and accommodate them. We don’t have the same community we once had, but step number one is to recognise that drivers are human, that they can only take so much.”
Now you can say the US is different. They are often said to be better respected by the public than we are here and much of that has to do with their associations and the effort they put in.
That is not to say all drivers are members, nor do they always agree.
Like here, many want things fixed and or changed, but few will do more than whinge to their mates about it and we all know what that will achieve: bugger all.
As interstate drivers, you could say we are nearly alone in what we do and the representation that we have. We have all manner of people and associations, the Transport Workers Union, the Australian Trucking Association, NatRoad, all the state associations, the National Road Freighters Association, the Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association and the other livestockers, let alone the container groups and more, but who looks after interstate drivers?
A blind man can see we will never get another chance for an industry that will pay us for all we do and, while we are not alone there, I do think we deserve more than we get.
We are not respected by those who make the rules, we are not recognised by those we carry the freight for and, every time the press attack us yet again, the slant will be we are all drug-taking axe murderers who kill people.
The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was hijacked by someone to split the industry and to ensure drivers do not get paid more.
It would seem they did a bloody good job.
If you know how to change this, let me know.