No riff-raff re­quired

The ex­otic, iso­lated lo­ca­tions for trans­port as­so­ci­a­tions’ an­nual gen­eral meet­ings ap­pear to be a ploy to pro­hibit the at­ten­dance of grass­roots op­er­a­tors, writes Ken Wilkie

Owner Driver - - OWNER // DRIVER -

MAS­QUER­ADE: a pre­tence or false ap­pear­ance. The act is a noun, the do­ing is a verb.

‘So what the bloody hell is he on about now?’ you might ask. For some time I have been ask­ing for two things to be ad­dressed in the in­ter­ests of the greater road trans­port in­dus­try. Those two items can be un­der­taken si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

The two things are: truth in breach re­port­ing and in­de­pen­dent re­search into heavy ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents to de­ter­mine the true cause of ac­ci­dents.

News me­dia in south-east Queens­land is again slan­der­ing mem­bers of this in­dus­try, claim­ing heavy ve­hi­cles in the right lane are a safety is­sue. And three de­merit points. The cop I saw in­ter­viewed stated that he was more than happy to re­lieve er­rant truck driv­ers of sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars and three de­mer­its.

So many peo­ple on the pe­riph­ery of this in­dus­try claim to be work­ing for a bet­ter in­dus­try. In truth, I be­lieve most are mas­querad­ing be­hind their con­cerns. Most are on a mon­ey­ori­en­tated ego trip.

Take the as­so­ci­a­tion plead­ing con­cern for the grass­roots op­er­a­tors’ wel­fare. The 2017 an­nual gen­eral meet­ing is slated to hap­pen in a some­what re­mote tourist lo­ca­tion. Now I ap­pre­ci­ate that the lo­ca­tion has suf­fered se­verely dur­ing a re­cent weather event and will wel­come the busi­ness. How­ever, it seems to have com­pletely slipped the minds of th­ese as­so­ci­a­tion peo­ple that at­ten­dance by the very ba­sic of grass­root op­er­a­tors to any func­tion re­quires that that op­er­a­tor shut down his or her busi­ness for the du­ra­tion of the func­tion, plus the re­turn travel time and travel cost.

One also has to fac­tor in the pos­si­ble at­ti­tude of one’s cus­tomers. Road trans­port is a ser­vice op­er­a­tion. We do not drive about for self­grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Rather the sole pur­pose of our travel is to trans­port a prod­uct from one point to another point for the cus­tomer’s eco­nomic well­be­ing.

A com­peti­tor may not care too much for rub­bing shoul­ders with the hoity-toity, or care for the in­dus­try’s well­be­ing, and per­haps has peo­ple em­ployed to do the work while the rich em­ployer is en­joy­ing him­self. That op­er­a­tor is able to walk away with the ab­sent grass­root op­er­a­tor’s work. My thoughts on the less-than eas­ily-ac­cessed meet­ing point? “That’ll get rid of the riff-raff.”

Will the con­cerned as­so­ci­a­tion push for truth in breach re­port­ing? No. Fix the prob­lem and the source of rev­enue dis­ap­pears. Will bu­reau­cracy push to have proper stud­ies into heavy ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents? No. Again, fix the prob­lem; the rev­enue source will dis­ap­pear. They are just mas­querad­ing as be­ing con­cerned.

NAIVE COM­MEN­TA­TORS

A cou­ple of ar­ti­cles in Owner//

Driver’s June is­sue caught my at­ten­tion. ‘Truck­ing’s black dog – truck driv­ers face a com­bi­na­tion of work­place fac­tors that place them at risk of de­vel­op­ing a men­tal health con­di­tion such as de­pres­sion or anx­i­ety’. The ar­ti­cle dis­cusses fac­tors that in­clude long hours in iso­la­tion, ir­reg­u­lar work and rest; and con­trol over the pace of work.

Again, we have a com­men­ta­tor not to­tally aware of the re­al­life sit­u­a­tion. The stated is­sues are ab­so­lutely rel­e­vant. But BeyondBlue’s Nick Ar­va­mo­tos failed to note my big­gest de­pres­sive – the un­re­lent­ing and ir­re­spon­si­ble per­se­cu­tion of truck driv­ers by the en­force­ment arm of so­ci­ety.

The reg­u­la­tions be­ing en­forced have not been pro­mul­gated from the re­sult of de­tailed study. In­stead, the reg­u­la­tions have come about as the re­sult of as­sump­tions – most prob­a­bly flawed. They have come about thanks to dis­hon­est re­port­ing of breaches of th­ese prob­a­bly flawed as­sump­tions. Ev­ery breach out of the lie book is ad­ver­tised as a fa­tigue breach, so the ig­no­rant out­side of in­dus­try read that as truck driv­ers driv­ing im­paired by fa­tigue.

There are a bloody sight more out­side the in­dus­try than in. We be­come over­whelmed by num­bers – again based on a lie that those mas­querad­ing as car­ing for the in­dus­try don’t have a de­ter­mi­na­tion to ad­dress.

SWEETHEART DEALS

Some over-di­men­sional load­ing is le­gal de­pend­ing on which in­dus­try owns the over­size unit, but il­le­gal for other in­dus­tries. We have sweetheart reg­is­tra­tion deals that give some op­er­a­tors a dis­tinct com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. All of this com­plex­ity is be­ing sold as ef­fi­ciency. It’s a case of gullible peo­ple want­ing to im­press bu­reau­cracy with their broad-mind­ed­ness.

There’s no doubt the heavy ve­hi­cle lobby group will be im­pressed with one op­er­a­tor’s in­ge­nu­ity and are prob­a­bly jeal­ous they never thought of it them­selves.

It’s def­i­nitely vol­u­met­ric loaded – three pieces of equip­ment on a sin­gle trailer but not mass sen­si­tive. Very length con­scious as the prime mover was a cab-over. The mid­dle piece of equip­ment strad­dled the break in the trailer stretched out. Very neat and another trans­port job gone west and/or cheaper trans­port for a val­ued cus­tomer.

Just keep the com­plex­ity com­ing and ad­ver­tise the breaches in the strong­est pos­si­ble lan­guage. That will keep the bu­reau­cracy be­ing fed – sort of self-gen­er­at­ing, re­ally.

Bu­reau­cracy is con­stantly mov­ing the goal posts in the name of ef­fi­ciency. But we do need to have an open mind – but the com­plex­ity and the brib­ing of bu­reau­cracy with fees for the new push­ing of the bound­aries. The peo­ple with the ex­tended trailer are li­able for a fine sim­ply be­cause they did not

“We do not drive about for self­grat­i­fi­ca­tion.”

fork out dol­lars to bu­reau­cracy Com­mon­wealth of Aus­tralia Gazette, Na­tional Live­stock Wel­fare Work and Rest Ex­emp­tion No­tice 2017:

“1. Pur­pose: to ex­empt driv­ers of fa­tigue reg­u­lated heavy ve­hi­cles car­ry­ing live­stock from spe­cific work time re­quire­ments if ad­di­tional time is needed to re­spond to sit­u­a­tions where the wel­fare of the live­stock is or was at risk. 6. Def­i­ni­tions (2) In this no­tice – Live­stock means an­i­mals of a class of cat­tle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, poul­try, emus, os­trich, al­paca, deer, camel or buf­falo.”

Pretty com­pre­hen­sive, hey? A live­stock wel­fare in­ci­dent means a rea­son­ably un­fore­see­able event or set of cir­cum­stances aris­ing in the course of a jour­ney that ad­versely im­pacts on the wel­fare of live­stock car­ried as part of the ve­hi­cle load. In­ter­est­ingly no homo sapi­ens listed for wel­fare con­sid­er­a­tion; that’s be­cause the first lot don’t have ac­cess to credit cards or cheque books. The best the Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion can of­fer truck driv­ers – note truck driv­ers are out­side the pa­ram­e­ters con­sid­ered for wel­fare – is eight min­utes.

Ap­ply for a job with the Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor and it’s all touchy feely – be nice to work­mates and the like. That at­ti­tude has not worked its way past the of­fice door yet. They talk like it has but that’s just po­lit­i­cal speak.

We’re big into chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity now, telling busi­ness peo­ple not how to be decent peo­ple but rather how to make sure one does not get lum­bered with a big penalty for get­ting caught not do­ing the right thing.

It’s some­thing like the guest speaker last year in Cairns. Set up your busi­ness in such a way that it can go broke, leav­ing the pro­pri­etor with his or her as­sets, was the mes­sage.

Who gives a stuff about those who are not paid for ser­vices ren­dered in the mean­time.

KEN WILKIE

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