Griev­ance mo­tion

Australian Transport News - - Contents -

It’s early days and in­dus­try re­sis­tance is mild, but it may not al­ways be . . .

As we re­late later in this edi­tion, the state and fed­eral in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions dug their heels in dur­ing Jan­uary as the New South Wales po­lice and Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices (RMS) de­liv­ered a short, sharp, shock.

With the prospect of be­ing ac­cused, no mat­ter how ir­ra­tionally, of hav­ing lost con­trol of truck­ing safety given the spike in re­lated fa­tal­i­ties, and with a full hue and cry su­per­charged by high-pro­file deadly in­ci­dents in quick suc­ces­sion, NSW felt it had no choice but to do some­thing.

The only trou­ble be­ing that the ‘some­thing’ was the same old, same old. No mat­ter that the au­thor­i­ties and their po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have been at pains to em­pha­sise the tar­get be­ing driv­ers and com­pa­nies play­ing fast and loose with laws and rules, many of the oth­ers who op­er­a­tions and blitzes are said to aid feel that they are be­ing caught up in a kind of col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment.

This sense of griev­ance has roots that go back years, to a time when RMS was the Roads and Traf­fic Au­thor­ity ( RTA) and in­fa­mous in the in­dus­try for some of its in­spec­tors’ ar­bi­trary ap­proach to reg­u­la­tions.

The fir­ing up of this an­cient en­mity finds fuel in blan­ket state­ments based on the rough­est of fig­ures made in a way that can’t fail but be in­ter­preted by the in­dus­try as be­ing self- serv­ing and fit only for pub­lic con­sump­tion.

For the in­dus­try, if NSW au­thor­i­ties can’t fur­nish a proper break­down of se­ri­ous in­fringe­ments as against mi­nor ones, such as the “stone chips on the num­ber­plate” as one reader re­lated, let alone ac­knowl­edge the low sin­gle-fig­ure na­ture of drug- driv­ing fig­ures, then it will refuse to en­gage pos­i­tively with such a mes­sage.

It is also un­help­ful that such sta­tis­tics fail to ac­count for in­fringe­ments against pro­fes­sional driv­ers work­ing in the hire-an­dreward sec­tor and those who just hap­pen to have a heavy ve­hi­cle li­cence.

The for­mer, and their com­pa­nies, are prop­erly part of the ‘ truck­ing in­dus­try’ and the lat­ter could be al­most any­one, yet they are lumped to­gether, both in au­thor­i­ties’ pro­nounce­ments and in an ig­no­rant pub­lic’s eye.

In the de­vel­op­ment of this de­bate, au­thor­i­ties of all sorts will be asked to jus­tify their po­si­tions, as­sump­tions and prac­tices.

A flavour of the this new at­mos­phere has been the ex­change be­tween for­mer Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor ( NHVR) safety di­rec­tor Daniel Elkins and NSW Po­lice chief in­spec­tor and stake­holder re­la­tions man­ager Phillip Brooks on truck safety cam­paigner Rod Han­nifey’s LinkedIn page.

Elkins’ call of ‘ where’s the proof?’ was met with some­thing of a ‘ we thought you were on our side’ type of re­sponse.

Per­haps the fo­rum meant a more fruit­ful pub­lic dis­cus­sion was un­likely to oc­cur, which is a shame as it needs to hap­pen.

Mean­while, Elkins, as a for­mer in­sider, has some pointed ques­tions, both for po­lice on strat­egy and about where the NHVR stands on safety.

What­ever their thoughts on Elkins be­ing out­side the tent, they need to step up on the is­sues and ar­gue them on their mer­its.

Now, with un­for­tu­nate tim­ing that pos­si­bly couldn’t be helped, Op­er­a­tion Shield has started up, fol­lowed by the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion ( ATA) giv­ing the thumbs down on the NHVR’s elec­tronic work diaries roll­out pro­posal.

If au­thor­i­ties and gov­ern­ments want to bring the in­dus­try with them on the road to im­prove­ment and re­form, they need to set 20th cen­tury con­cepts be­hind and take in­dus­try con­cerns more se­ri­ously.

Oth­er­wise a sig­nif­i­cant pe­riod of non- co­op­er­a­tion and re­sis­tance is a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity.

“The only trou­ble be­ing that the ‘some­thing’ was the same old, same old”

of things South Amer­i­can, arche­ol­o­gists, tourists and cul­ture buffs alike were hor­ri­fied when ole mate drove his truck over the World Her­itage­listed Nazca Lines in Peru. Tracks in the sand mea­sur­ing 50x100 me­tres were caused at the 1500- to 2000-year- old site. The Min­istry of Cul­ture wanted to fine him the equiv­a­lent of more than $2000 for de­lib­er­ate van­dal­ism but, de­spite the driver warn­ing signs in the area, that was thrown out for lack of ev­i­dence. Nor were ru­mours that Jainer Je­sus Flores Vigo was try­ing to evade road tax found to hold wa­ter – if such can be said in that desert.

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