A truckie’s legacy

Whether you’ve had decades of ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind the wheel or you’re a new kid on the block, we’re all tarred with the same brush – that of a truck driver! Ken Wilkie writes

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver - KEN WILKIE has been an owner-driver since 1974, af­ter first get­ting be­hind the wheel at 11. He’s on his eighth truck, and is a long-time Owner//Driver con­trib­u­tor. He cov­ers Rock­hamp­ton to Ade­laide and any point in be­tween. His cur­rent am­bi­tion is to see

IT’S THE mid­dle of May and those mas­sive over­head elec­tronic signs above the ma­jor routes around Bris­bane are an­nounc­ing World Road Safety Week – ‘join the pledge and slow down’. For years now I have be­come aware that those in charge of road safety have more in­flu­ence than com­pe­tency. No trucks in the right lane is just another ex­am­ple.

I don’t have a lot of abil­ity in any field of en­deav­our, but my best ca­pa­bil­ity is driv­ing.

I have been do­ing it pro­fes­sion­ally (if one gets paid to do an ac­tiv­ity one should claim pro­fes­sion­al­ism surely) for more than 50 years.

Over all those kilo­me­tres I have ex­pe­ri­enced many and var­ied sit­u­a­tions. I have never stud­ied po­lit­i­cal science, nor medicine, nor chem­istry or any other highly re­garded pro­fes­sion. I am but a truck driver.

By bench­mark­ing with other pro­fes­sional driv­ers for more than five decades, I now con­sider I have be­come rea­son­ably adept in the pro­fes­sion. Bet­ter than some but worse than oth­ers.

Over the years I have rode or driven trucks, cars, bull­doz­ers, mo­tor­cy­cles and, yes, even bloody push­bikes. Of­ten on multi-lane high­ways, more of­ten on dual lanes, of­ten on gravel sur­faces and even two-wheel drive, two-wheel braked farm trac­tors on steep grassy pad­docks.

I have done my share of the ba­sic means of travel be­fore mo­torised trans­port – hoof­ing it. But in the eyes of so many, such as the Queens­land Min­is­ter for Main Roads, I am just a truck driver.

In the eyes of bureaucracy in gen­eral, those like me who have spent a life­time with mul­ti­com­bi­na­tions in all sorts of op­er­at­ing con­di­tions, we just don’t rate any ac­knowl­edge­ment for our pro­fes­sion­al­ism nor our com­pe­tency.

In so many of us, and on top of all that ex­pe­ri­ence, lays an at­ti­tude that drives us to im­prove and to be the best we can. But to bureaucracy, both pub­lic and pri­vate, we will never be any­thing but ‘just truck driv­ers’.


I have a se­vere in­tol­er­ance for ar­ro­gance. That in­tol­er­ance is en­hanced markedly when the ar­ro­gance is cou­pled with con­ceit and ig­no­rance. I am con­stantly as­tounded when peo­ple with all such fail­ings seem to find them­selves in po­si­tions of in­flu­ence and man­age­ment.

Join the pledge and slow down: how can some­one with enough in­flu­ence to have such a mes­sage pro­moted, pre­sum­ably world­wide, be so dumb and ig­no­rant of real road safety pa­ram­e­ters?

Driv­ing is speed­ing. All driv­ing is speed­ing. The only rea­son we drive is to get some­where sooner than we could if we had walked. So how much do we slow down? Ge­orge might think 5km, Jack 10, and Mary – well who knows? Mary is very timid. She is de­ter­mined not to have any an­ti­so­cial mark on her re­sume. Heaven for­bid a fine!

Trevor (read sched­uler) has the obli­ga­tion to max­imise kilo­me­tres ac­com­plished per hours – within le­gal time pa­ram­e­ters, of course. What all this adds up to is fric­tion in the traf­fic flow. It adds up to tail­gat­ing. It adds up to ac­ci­dents.

Join the pledge to slow down is such a dumb re­quest. Zero tol­er­ance has al­ready cre­ated traf­fic flow is­sues on most roads, in­clud­ing the M1 in Queens­land. Both hair-brained sug­ges­tions have al­ready cre­ated such mayhem in the traf­fic flow to the ex­tent that Queens­land pol­lie Mark Bai­ley has been forced to show his anti-truck driver bias in his sug­ges­tion that re­strict­ing trucks from the far right lane as some fairy­tale way of eas­ing the traf­fic flow. Plus three de­merit points I might add.

No re­search; just belt the truckie. And busi­ness de­cries its in­abil­ity to source good driv­ers. Will it never end? I will be happy when some in­flated jerk stands up and ut­ters a heart­felt rev­er­ence for the ex­is­tence and ser­vice de­liv­ered by ‘just truck driv­ers’. The as­so­ci­a­tions, to which so many of us give fi­nan­cial sus­te­nance, meekly ac­cept the blither­ing brain-dead procla­ma­tion.

What hap­pened when vac­u­um­brained jerks in Vic­to­ria sug­gested that the Monash Free­way in Mel­bourne adopt an un­re­searched pro­posal for trucks at a 90km/h limit while the rest of the traf­fic flow was al­lowed 100km/h?

I have said it be­fore – trucks in the right lane are a symp­tom, not the cause. At least I have five decades of ex­pe­ri­ence to sup­port my view.


My first mem­o­ries of the M1 have it as a wind­ing two-lane road not even up to the worst of the Newell High­way stan­dard. Then some id­iot has sug­gested us­ing the break­down lane as a means of get­ting vis­i­tors be­tween the two points. How stupid is that? What break­down lane ex­ists over the Red­land Bay Road cross­over just for starters? And the nu­mer­ous slip roads en­ter­ing the high­way? Are we go­ing to have mo­tor­cy­cle cops polic­ing all th­ese en­try points to en­sure pri­or­ity for games tourists?

Yes, I am but a truck driver. But how about pro­mot­ing a bench­mark speed limit and ad­ver­tise what per­cent­age above that bench­mark speed will at­tract a breach.

Make the per­cent­age above an easyto-cal­cu­late num­ber and make it such that driv­ers are not so fright­ened of go­ing too fast.

Sack a few use­less bu­reau­crats and put the sav­ings into over­head read­outs of the speed of the traf­fic flow. The last place we want in­di­vid­u­al­ism is on multi-lane roads.

I am aware that it is be­com­ing fash­ion­able for toad­y­ing trans­port CEOs to have their fleet run at in­ter­fer­ence speeds, no doubt join­ing the pledge to slow down. Yes it does save fuel, but at what cost?

Con­tin­u­ing the rant against poorly con­ceived and ir­ra­tionally ac­ti­vated ‘safety’ mea­sures: In their de­ter­mi­na­tion not to be sued for per­ceived li­a­bil­ity should there be an ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing ‘just a truck driver’ while hav­ing his/her truck loaded, nu­mer­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions en­act a pol­icy that has the driver at least three me­tres from an op­er­at­ing fork­lift.

The truck driver is still re­spon­si­ble for on-road load se­cu­rity but de­nied the op­por­tu­nity to su­per­vise load­ing that can im­pact on that on-road load se­cu­rity. I think there is a dou­ble stan­dard here.


Next time you are catch­ing a train on any sub­ur­ban network, check out the se­cu­rity of­fered to wait­ing pas­sen­gers. While it is ob­vi­ous that train pas­sen­gers would be more in­tel­li­gent than truckies, th­ese pas­sen­gers are pro­vided with a magic yel­low line that pre­vents any ac­ci­den­tal con­tact with a loco en­ter­ing the sta­tion. There is no three-me­tre rule.

Of course that loco would be slow­ing down, which is another added safety com­po­nent, of course.

I just can’t help see­ing in my mind some tex­ting teenager bounc­ing a soc­cer ball and be­com­ing dis­ori­ented and fail­ing to ac­knowl­edge the magic yel­low line. I won­der how or if the lo­cos ob­serve the 40km/h school zone. I dare say they would. The ex­tra time added by go­ing slower must ad­vance the over­time Bris­bane train driv­ers are renowned for.

Dou­ble stan­dards: a truckie can be and of­ten is pinged for ex­ceed­ing 12 hours in 24 by 15-plus min­utes, ir­re­spec­tive of the years of ex­pe­ri­ence and ir­re­spec­tive of time of day. How­ever, those who have in­flu­ence can ros­ter a driver to do 14 hours overnight in con­tra­ven­tion of hu­man­ity’s di­ur­nal na­ture and not have any raised eye­brows in con­cern. Nor is there any ques­tion of ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause a driver is sched­uled to drive out­side of hu­man­ity’s nat­u­ral wak­ing time.

Hu­man­ity is di­ur­nal (of the day) in na­ture. Pos­sums are noc­tur­nal (ac­tive in the night time). With that new whizbang train line be­tween Bris­bane and Mel­bourne, con­tain­ers will be at their des­ti­na­tion in 24 hours. Me­thinks another per­son has en­gaged his/her mouth be­fore en­gag­ing the brain – prob­a­bly a bu­reau­crat.


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