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.