Left to the elements
Workplace health and safety rarely applies insofar as decent facilities for long-haul drivers
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?
LACK OF DRIVER FACILITIES
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.
RATCHET LOAD SECURING
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.”