Let’s rid in­dus­try of rogue op­er­a­tors

Big Rigs - - DIARY OF A TRUCK DRIVER - Mat Dock­erty Di­ary of a Truck Driver au­thor

IN MY last ar­ti­cle, I raised the idea of in­tro­duc­ing a sys­tem of op­er­a­tor per­mits for trans­port company own­ers and com­mer­cial driv­ers li­cences.

In this is­sue I thought I’d ex­pand on my ideas for im­ple­men­ta­tion, dis­cuss fur­ther the ben­e­fits and over­come some of the ob­jec­tions.

In the US the Com­mer­cial Driv­ers Li­cence (CDL) was in­tro­duced by an act of Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment in 1986 to har­monise the state li­cens­ing sys­tem.

While the reg­u­la­tions are fed­eral, each state is its own is­su­ing au­thor­ity, a sim­i­lar sys­tem would be eas­ily ini­ti­ated in Aus­tralia with a cen­tralised reg­is­ter, cu­rated by the NHVR, to be ac­cessed by all states.

Of­fences against the Road Trans­port Acts or Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tions while op­er­at­ing a com­mer­cial heavy ve­hi­cle would be re­ported to this cen­tral data store and as in the US re­cidi­vist of­fend­ers could re­ceive vary­ing sus­pen­sions, up to that of life sus­pen­sion.

Sus­pen­sion of your CDL would not im­pact your au­thor­ity to drive a non­com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle thereby re­duc­ing so­cioe­co­nomic im­pacts on driv­ers guilty of com­mer­cial events.

As this would be a com­mer­cial per­mit, the au­thor­ity could be given, to em­ploy­ers, to ac­cess a driver’s records and be no­ti­fied of breaches en­sur­ing op­er­a­tors are bet­ter in­formed of their driv­ers con­duct.

While cur­rently an em­ployer can check the va­lid­ity of a driv­ers li­cence and re­quest the driver sub­mit a copy of their driv­ing record, em­ploy­ers are re­liant on the driver’s self-re­port­ing road­side in­fringe­ments.

Cross-bor­der com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween road au­thor­i­ties re­mains some­where be­tween very lit­tle and non-ex­is­tent, at the cur­rent time, de­spite the tech­nol­ogy be­ing eas­ily avail­able.

Cen­tral­is­ing com­mer­cial driver records has the added ben­e­fit of mak­ing more ac­cu­rate sta­tis­ti­cal data avail­able.

Cur­rently, even sim­ple data like to­tal driver num­bers is near im­pos­si­ble to col­late.

Pro­mul­ga­tion of rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion about changes to reg­u­la­tions could also be fa­cil­i­tated with the in­for­ma­tion be­ing de­liv­ered to the peo­ple who re­ally need it, not just posters on the back of a dunny door.

So how about rolling it out? This, of course, would be quite a task to plan.

An ad­di­tion to the NHVL would be re­quired or maybe a sep­a­rate act should be passed so asWA could be in­volved but even if WA was resistant to the idea (which I doubt as while their non­com­mit­ment to the NHVR has many valid points, this is a dif­fer­ent beast) cross­bor­der op­er­a­tion of non-com­pli­ant driv­ers and ve­hi­cles would be eas­ily pre­vented and a mass ex­o­dus of op­er­a­tors to the west to avoid com­pli­ance re­spon­si­bil­i­ties would be averted.

Driv­ers would need to com­plete a writ­ten exam that could be eas­ily in­cor­po­rated into the cur­rent li­cens­ing sys­tem for the new com­ers to the in­dus­try and con­ducted in house by RTOs for those al­ready in the in­dus­try.

Those driv­ers who al­ready hold a TLI30207, Cer­tifi­cate III in Trans­port and Lo­gis­tics (Road Trans­port) would be given an ex­emp­tion from test­ing and an ad­di­tional tier of prac­ti­cal test­ing could be in­cor­po­rated for those who ob­tained their heavy ve­hi­cle li­cence over­seas, which would quickly fix any pos­si­ble is­sue there, while still al­low­ing for­eign na­tion­als to op­er­ate any ve­hi­cle they’ve been li­censed for as long as it’s not for com­mer­cial gain.

I also sug­gest that pri­mary pro­duc­ers be ex­empt from the CDL re­quire­ments when car­ry­ing their own pro­duce and in­puts within 200km of their prop­erty. An op­er­a­tor’s per­mit sys­tem would be even eas­ier to fa­cil­i­tate.

If a heavy ve­hi­cle is to be used for com­mer­cial gain, then it must have a per­mit sticker much like the cur­rent NHVR is­sues for mass and fa­tigue man­age­ment.

The per­mit would be is­sued to the ve­hi­cle owner, ei­ther an in­di­vid­ual or a company with direc­tors of the company, as regis­tered with ASIC, be­ing the re­spon­si­ble per­sons.

Ad­di­tion­ally, key play­ers like op­er­a­tions man­agers would need to be noted on the per­mit.

This re­spon­si­bil­ity of direc­tors may al­ready be in place un­der COR leg­is­la­tion but, in any event, it wouldn’t be a huge leap to do so.

Se­ri­ous, re­peated breaches against this per­mit could re­sult in re­vo­ca­tion, ef­fec­tively ground­ing a com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle or a fleet if it was deemed nec­es­sary.

The up­side of an op­er­a­tor per­mit sys­tem is that au­thor­i­ties can eas­ily au­dit fleet own­ers and achieve much of what the RSRT has said it wants to, by util­is­ing cur­rent leg­is­la­tion ap­pli­ca­ble to wage rates, su­per­an­nu­a­tion and the like.

Cur­rently a smaller op­er­a­tor can reg­is­ter a company with a spouse or rel­a­tive as a di­rec­tor, avoid en­rolling in any main­te­nance schemes, etc, and ef­fec­tively fly be­neath the radar.

They pay be­low the award, no su­per and other du­bi­ous tac­tics that al­low them to un­der­cut the good op­er­a­tors, go broke and start again and no­body no­tices un­less a driver puts up his hand.

I’ve worked for peo­ple like this and the un­for­tu­nate truth is it’s eas­ier to just walk away.

Phase this all in over 12–36 months and I be­lieve that within five years we’d have a vastly im­proved pool of driv­ers and a bet­ter re­port in the road ac­ci­dent statis­tics.

It’s only the pon­der­ings of a driver but I be­lieve it would make a big dif­fer­ence.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

MAT AND MAD: Mat Dock­erty drove Miss Madi­son to Perth on his first run across the pad­dock.

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