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.

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver - Rod Han­nifey writes ROD HAN­NIFEY, a trans­port safety ad­vo­cate, has been in­volved in rais­ing the pro­file of the in­dus­try, con­duct­ing high­way truck au­dits, the Blue Re­flec­tor Trial for in­for­mal park­ing bays on the Newell, the ‘Truck­ies on Road Code’, the na

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.

USA VIEW

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.”

AS­SO­CI­A­TION MEM­BER­SHIP

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.

ROD HAN­NIFEY

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