Fur­ther up the chain

Reg­u­la­tions im­posed by the ig­no­rant bu­reau­cracy are placing fur­ther stress on the in­dus­try

Owner Driver - - Wilkie’s Watch - Ken Wilkie

CHAIN OF RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY! In­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions – or the pri­vate sec­tor bu­reau­cracy are all full of en­ergy re­spond­ing to their pub­lic sec­tor comrades’ new im­proved ver­sion of the chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity reg­u­la­tions. I just can’t get my mind around why the busi­ness sec­tor has to be so very con­cerned with chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity when the pub­lic sec­tor is never ex­pected to be held re­spon­si­ble for any­thing. Those poor gullible souls who have taken the time to read my war­bling know I am dis­gusted by the psy­cho­log­i­cal stress put upon truck­ies through the en­force­ment of non-re­searched and pre­sump­tion-based reg­u­la­tions im­posed by the pub­lic bu­reau­cracy on the driv­ers and oper­a­tors of this in­dus­try.

In days gone by when NatRoad was ar­gu­ing to achieve a bet­ter po­si­tion eco­nom­i­cally on the na­tional front, when it was push­ing to have the prin­ci­ple of one na­tion, one reg­u­la­tion adopted, when it was ar­gu­ing in sup­port of the adop­tion of what is now the mis­termed Na­tional Reg­u­la­tor, it pub­licly claimed that com­pli­ance stress had at­ten­dant health risks. And it claimed that such health risks had no quan­tifi­able eco­nomic im­pact.

How does one judge the im­pact of the driver short­age on eco­nomic grounds? For years in­dus­try driv­ers have been ha­rassed with con­stant en­force­ment of in­ap­pro­pri­ate reg­u­la­tion, par­tic­u­larly in New South Wales.

So why does NSW head the list on ac­ci­dent fig­ures? In view of NatRoad’s ear­lier stated con­cern, why is it so silent on the need for the pub­lic sec­tor to demon­strate some de­gree of re­spon­si­bil­ity?

A Na­tional Reg­u­la­tor that puts more ef­fort into de­vis­ing schemes that it calls high­pro­duc­tiv­ity ve­hi­cles than it does into ef­forts to progress its core man­date – ef­fi­ciency and bal­ance into the na­tional trans­port task. It seems to have time for ev­ery thought wave that hap­pens.

The lat­est gem? Dob in a truckie. How many prank calls will this en­cour­age? What guar­an­tee will there be that the ‘dob­ber’ is gen­uine; knows what he or she is talk­ing about or whether the caller might have some axe to grind against the ac­cused? Or a de­sire to win over the ac­cused’s con­tract?

I have a per­sonal view that one ma­jor trans­port op­er­a­tor has been sent to the fi­nan­cial wall through the fail­ure of bu­reau­cracy to fol­low due and proper and just process. I know of an­other or­gan­i­sa­tion that has been slan­dered pub­licly by bu­reau­cracy but the own­ers were adamant that any ef­fort to gain re­dress would have re­sulted in a more vig­or­ous per­se­cu­tion on the road side. The whole at­ti­tude of the pub­lic bu­reau­cracy brings vi­sions of some ear­lier so­ci­eties that thank­fully have passed into his­tory. Or have they? It’s just one out­landish gripe against pri­vate in­dus­try af­ter an­other.

PRICKLY SCALY

Here’s the lat­est foul act that has been re­lated to me. A truckie was ac­cused of hav­ing a poorly ad­justed brake on his trailer. When the driver un­der­took to ‘nip’ it up, the ac­cus­ing scaly de­manded to see the driver’s cer­tifi­cate of com­pe­tency as a me­chanic.

Where does that leave those in in­dus­try ac­cred­i­ta­tion who are deemed to be al­lowed to main­tain equip­ment through recog­ni­tion of prior learn­ing?

I have been in con­tact with some­one from the bus and coach in­dus­try. The story is fright­en­ing. As any truck driver can tell you, when be­ing be­lit­tled by an en­force­ment per­son, the anal­ogy is al­ways raised: “What if a school bus full of kids pulls out in front of you?” Well, in this sit­u­a­tion the school bus full of kids is the very is­sue.

There is a for­mula that used to ap­ply to the reg­is­tra­tion of new coaches to de­ter­mine loaded weight. Even that for­mula was some­thing of an ex­er­cise in wish­ful think­ing. First off was the re­quire­ment to front up with a form 703 in ad­di­tion with a tare weigh bridge docket. One then does some ele­men­tary cal­cu­la­tion. Sub­tract the tare weight from the al­low­able gross. In the case of a two-axle coach, that gross is 16 tonnes.

Then one di­vides that fig­ure by a for­mula which values the body weight per pas­sen­ger at 65 ki­los. That’s the wish­ful think­ing bit.

It would be an in­ter­est­ing ex­er­cise to av­er­age out the weight of a year 12 class.

Any­way, the re­sult­ing fig­ure al­lows that many seats to be fit­ted. Now for some time even that rub­bery for­mula has been cast aside – espe­cially the re­quire­ment to pro­duce a tare weight fig­ure for the ve­hi­cle be­ing rereg­is­tered. In Queens­land there is no re­quire­ment for coaches to en­ter a weigh­bridge should such a fa­cil­ity be op­er­at­ing on a coach’s route.

Maybe that sit­u­a­tion has come about be­cause en­force­ment does not want too many wit­nesses to their poor pub­lic re­la­tions pro­ce­dures.

The ad­vice I have re­ceived is that many school buses are run­ning grossly over­weight. I was told that some coaches are fit­ted with up to 65 seats when just 49 would be the num­ber to meet the for­mula.

It was said to me that some are go­ing up to nine tonne on steer axles. A study of the load rat­ings of 295/80 steer tyres come up with the high­est rat­ing fall­ing around 3.5 tonnes; or seven tonnes in com­bi­na­tion. Nine tonnes ex­ceeds both a safe tyre load­ing and axle load rat­ings. Re­mem­ber, we are talk­ing about buses grossly over­weight with school kids.

NON ADR COM­PLI­ANT

Gov­ern­ments have been com­plicit in this mess as they have been sub­si­dis­ing the pur­chase of im­ported coaches – in­ci­den­tally to the value of the cheap­est im­port avail­able.

The ac­cu­sa­tion is that some, in­deed many, do not con­form to re­quired ADRs. Of course the pub­lic sec­tor bu­reau­cracy has wiped its hands of the mess, stat­ing that the owner and driver are re­spon­si­ble for loaded weight.

How come there is never any de­mand for chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity to be di­rected against the pub­lic ser­vants who have al­lowed this sit­u­a­tion to de­velop? Just pic­ture the pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion should the coach be char­tered to a foot­ball club and when, af­ter the game and festivities, ar­ti­fi­cially re­laxed play­ers and sup­port­ers are want­ing to board for the re­turn trip.

Maybe the coach op­er­a­tor in their wis­dom has taken it upon them­selves to fit on-board scales. How is a driver sup­posed to ad­mit just enough peo­ple to com­ply with weight pa­ram­e­ters that leave seats empty?

Or the lo­cal sec­ondary school has its year 12 kids taken to an event. Is the teacher, re­spon­si­ble for the out­ing, go­ing to be in­volved in a chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity law­suit when the over­loaded coach is in­volved in a hor­ri­ble loss of life in­ci­dent? Or the driver and owner? What im­pact will pass onto the ve­hi­cle sup­plier?

The is­sue is be­gin­ning to at­tract con­cern among some ve­hi­cle sup­pli­ers with at least a cou­ple de­clin­ing to pro­vide coaches with yet even more seat­ing ca­pac­ity.

As I have come to ex­pect, bu­reau­cracy has washed its hands of any re­spon­si­bil­ity and will pass the buck to the owner and driver.

Maybe the Trans­port Work­ers Union will see fit to get in­volved. In view of the lat­est mind-blow­ing edict from the NHVR, it will no doubt ex­pect those who have con­cerns to dob. Con­cerned in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions? I’m told that bus in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions re­ceive con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial sup­port from those with a vested in­ter­est in sup­ply­ing non-ADR ap­proved ve­hi­cles. A bit hard to bite the hand that feeds you – or dob in your spon­sor.

GPS on log books? I just won­der whether the things can be pro­grammed to record ex­ces­sive time a driver is held while an in­spec­tor sup­pos­edly goes through the thing.

“Bu­reau­cracy has washed its hands of any re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

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