Left to the el­e­ments

Work­place health and safety rarely ap­plies in­so­far as de­cent fa­cil­i­ties for long-haul driv­ers

Owner Driver - - Wilkie’s Watch - Ken Wilkie

HYP­OCRITE: a per­son who prac­tises hypocrisy, es­pe­cially one pre­tend­ing to be vir­tu­ous. Hypocrisy: the pre­tence of hav­ing cer­tain qual­i­ties, be­liefs, or feel­ings es­pe­cially ad­mirable or vir­tu­ous ones. Vir­tu­ous: word fam­ily (ad­jec­tive) of virtue – the qual­ity of moral good­ness or ex­cel­lence.

For some time now I have had an am­bi­tion to pull two trailers to the ‘top end’. I started my ca­reer in road trans­port work­ing as a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for a Bris­bane-Dar­win or­gan­i­sa­tion and for the same or­gan­i­sa­tion man­ag­ing its Kather­ine de­pot. Man­ag­ing the de­pot was a flow­ery term for off-load­ing Kather­ine freight at any time of the day or night that the trucks came through and then de­liv­er­ing the same to its local des­ti­na­tion.

Do­ing a dou­ble-up was of a hope­less dream, re­ally, when one con­sid­ers that these days most freight goes via two-up driv­ing with not two but three trailers tag­ging along. There was the small is­sue of up­grad­ing the rego for mul­ti­com­bi­na­tion, not to men­tion find­ing a prime con­trac­tor will­ing to let me play my silly games.

I have al­ways been a lucky in­di­vid­ual. I won the lottery into the army in 1967 and, in­stead of hav­ing my life ru­ined by a post­ing to Viet­nam, I found a girl who has lov­ingly shared my life and now lov­ingly comes un­der the term of the ‘old sheila’. I went into road trans­port un­der my own ban­ner many moons ago and have trav­elled the world as a re­sult. I ac­cept that it’s not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea.

Ah, the dream. Not a bad ver­sion of the dream has even­tu­ated. Still lucky, I ran over­size from Bris­bane to the Wodg­ina mine in West­ern Aus­tralia. Wodg­ina mine? Never heard of it? That is your home­work for the month.

The trip was won­der­ful, day­light all the way up. It was just what I needed to see where we’d been some 45 years pre­vi­ously. Road-wise noth­ing was the same. The towns still have the same names but that’s all.

There was a new group of truckie friends in the true Aus­tralian mould – gen­tle­men all. Well-main­tained gear, main­tained as such with pride and plea­sure. I think I was the third-old­est op­er­a­tor en­gaged at 70 go­ing on 71. There were sev­eral in their 60s. One young pup by his ad­mis­sion was just 25. I doubt many oth­ers to be less than 50.

So, why the thing about hypocrisy at the be­gin­ning? I’ll start at the last and work back. Work­place health safety is a valid con­cern for us all; there can be no dis­put­ing that. How­ever, the is­sue is the re­al­ity of what is health and safety.

We had to be es­corted into the mine site and, of course, out again. That’s rea­son­able, as we had to cross a haul road be­ing used by heavy mine ve­hi­cles.

Two of us (both 75 years plus) were re­quired to wait in the bak­ing north­west tem­per­a­ture of al­most 40 de­grees for nearly two hours while the es­cort ve­hi­cle cooled its heels wait­ing for a fur­ther three ve­hi­cles to be off­loaded be­fore be­ing es­corted the 10 min­utes to op­er­a­tional free­dom. Health and safety?


Port Hed­land has a new road sys­tem al­low­ing multi-com­bi­na­tions pass­ing through to do so with­out in­ter­fer­ing with the local in­hab­i­tants. That’s a good idea. A road train pad has been pro­vided for those need­ing to break up or park up. Sorry about the fa­cil­i­ties for driv­ers. No toi­lets or any ameni­ties.

For those who are not aware of the new route and pad’s ex­is­tence and re­quire the ba­sics of toi­let and shower, should they pro­ceed along the old route to avail them­selves of such ba­sics pro­vided by pri­vate en­ter­prise, the au­thor­i­ties have fixed a 1m x 1m (ap­prox­i­mately) black and white sign ad­vis­ing that ve­hi­cles over 20 me­tres are pre­cluded. The price for non-ad­her­ence is $1000.

Any­one with de­cency would at least have fixed sev­eral large coloured ad­vi­sory signs prior to the ap­pro­pri­ate in­ter­sec­tion. When one is con­cen­trat­ing on traf­fic, such in­signif­i­cant no­ti­fi­ca­tion is eas­ily missed.

Hypocrisy in the pub­lic sec­tor is equally at large in WA. A WA trans­port of­fi­cer al­legedly claimed that the ab­sence of toi­lets was to foil the ac­tiv­i­ties of same-sex ori­en­tated peo­ple. Get your pri­or­i­ties right, I sug­gest.

Af­ter cross­ing the bor­der into the big state, one sees two types of rest ar­eas for trav­ellers. One type caters for the grey no­mad type, is well set back off the road and fea­tures toi­lets and shel­ter shed. It’s definitely not ac­ces­si­ble for the triple road train driver. And these rest points are fre­quently posted with a nice sign (again in the vicin­ity of a me­tre and prob­a­bly big­ger), ask­ing if the user has had a good rest. That’s very nice.

On the con­trary, the truckie is faced with an area cer­tainly large enough to ac­com­mo­date three or four triples. Toi­lets and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing health is­sue? Well! Sev­eral such sites have signs ad­vis­ing the next point where one can drop rub­bish fur­ther down the route should that site not be pro­vided with a rub­bish bin.


Hypocrisy – the para­noia at­tached to us­ing those half-baked ratchet load-se­cur­ing de­vices. An­other out­come forced on op­er­a­tors be­cause those who have no ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the truck driver’s job de­scrip­tion are just so anx­ious to avoid any sniff of a le­gal li­a­bil­ity claim if an un­trained over-cen­tre dog user has an ac­ci­dent.

I scored a re­turn load from the great north­west. Part of that load was a site con­tainer in the form of an old 20-foot ship­ping con­tainer plus other items that fully filled the 45ft to ab­so­lute max­i­mum. I chained the ‘X’ con­tainer di­ag­o­nally from the top cor­ners as per the guide­lines and with rub­ber be­tween it and trailer floor.

My good friend Peter from WA has al­ready in­sti­gated a study into the con­found­ing ratchet dogs. The things can create mus­cle is­sues op­er­at­ing across the body’s mus­cle struc­ture, es­pe­cially at height. That is a sci­en­tific fact. But that body dam­age is not as ob­vi­ous, nor is it as dra­matic, as a smack in the poorly-placed face from a stored energy de­vice.

The dan­gers of us­ing a stored energy de­vice can be mit­i­gated by us­ing them in con­junc­tion with a sin­gle-di­rec­tion ten­sion de­vice that frees the op­er­a­tor from risk of sud­den energy re­lease of an over-cen­tre dog. What the ‘ig­no­ra­muses’ of load ten­sion­ing don’t take into con­sid­er­a­tion – how can they when they are too ig­no­rant to know? – is that a ratchet dog needs a con­sid­er­able part of 360 de­grees to a ra­dius of some 30 or more cen­time­tres’ free area to op­er­ate.

Where is that con­sid­er­able por­tion when the rest of the load is jammed up against what is be­ing re­strained? You need to turn the bloody han­dle, stupid.

An in­ter­est­ing point is when placed in a long sec­tion of chain, there is con­sid­er­able abil­ity for the chain to ab­sorb the ro­ta­tional stress be­ing ap­plied be­fore the thread on the dog will move. And when one re­verses the han­dle, how does one stop the chain from re­vers­ing?

The folly of those who don’t un­der­stand the job de­scrip­tion is that it’s all about re­mov­ing them­selves or their cus­tomers from a per­ceived threat of lit­i­ga­tion. The op­er­a­tor’s health and safety is sec­ondary.

If enough ig­no­rant peo­ple can be con­vinced that a pre­scribed action is ac­cept­able, an in­no­cent per­son will be sent into fi­nan­cial im­pro­vi­sa­tion try­ing to ar­gue a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

Hypocrisy – those claim­ing hu­mil­ity and pub­lic ac­co­lades for sup­pos­edly sup­port­ing moves for a bet­ter in­dus­try but in re­al­ity are sim­ply try­ing to feather their own nest. What­ever has be­come of the at­ti­tude of ‘for King and coun­try’?

“The price for non­ad­her­ence is $1000.”

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