Asleep at the wheel

Those pulling the strings com­plain about the driver short­age but it’s all due to their lack of fore­sight

Owner Driver - - The Interstater - To send feed­back, e-mail The In­ter­stater at thein­ter­[email protected]

HOPE YOU all got a chance to read the lat­est ram­blings of the Vic­to­rian Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (VTA) in re­la­tion to its new­est rev­e­la­tion that there may be a “loom­ing cri­sis” whereby trans­port com­pa­nies are strug­gling to find com­pe­tent driv­ers to strap into their trucks. The VTA is even call­ing for the State Gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce “ma­jor” re­forms to keep un­safe driv­ers away from sub­ur­ban streets. Re­ally, it’s that bad? Who would have guessed!

This has even prompted the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Se­con Freight Lo­gis­tics to ad­mit his com­pany is strug­gling to find qual­ity em­ploy­ees: “We’re not get­ting qual­ity driv­ers.”

I hope these peo­ple are not seek­ing any sym­pa­thy. Clearly they have had their heads firmly shoved in such a place that they haven’t been lis­ten­ing to the in­dus­try over the past 20 years or more.

It’s not as if it is only a re­cent par­a­digm. This has been com­ing like the in­evitable erup­tion of Ki­lauea. Do they not read? Do they not lis­ten? We have been try­ing to get them to lis­ten since for­ever.

It started when they ac­cepted the BS of not be­ing able to al­low pas­sen­gers in trucks. It started when we could no longer take our kids in the trucks with us, just like we were able to do when we were kids.

How do they think we got to be so in­ter­ested in driv­ing trucks for a living? It was in­grained in our DNA right from a very early age, but our kids had that stolen from them. Now these numb­skulls are see­ing the re­sults of their ig­no­rance.

It’s one thing to fi­nally ad­mit that em­ploy­ers have been asleep at the wheel but they are still too ar­ro­gant to see how they are cur­rently cre­at­ing the next wave of profit-making block­ades. The in­crease of over­all length rules has made a mock­ery of the truck­ing in­dus­try’s abil­ity to en­tice driv­ers but they still can’t see it. So whinge all you like.

I’ll give you a lit­tle hint – pay­ing a driver a lousy $1 or there­abouts per hour ex­tra that you pay for driv­ing a freak­ing road train around the met­ro­pol­i­tan roads and streets isn’t ex­actly go­ing to see blokes sign­ing up for the ex­tra $50 or $60 bucks per week when there are oth­ers pay­ing $5 or more to drive a rigid.

The ex­tra stress, the ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity, the ex­tra con­cen­tra­tion, the ex­tra care and con­trol re­quired to avoid killing those around you isn’t worth the glory of be­ing able to tell your mates that “ya drive a train”. Clearly those scratch­ing their nog­gin try­ing to find ways of draw­ing driv­ers into their need to gen­er­ate a profit are loath to be told that it is sim­ply a money choice sit­u­a­tion.

They must make the choice of con­tin­u­ing to pay the bare-bones min­i­mum or up­ping the rates they are pre­pared to pay for qual­ity driv­ers. It’s a case of ‘we pay what we can af­ford’. Well, that’s the at­ti­tude they need to rid them­selves of – pronto.


The other ad­mis­sion Peter An­der­son of the VTA made was that they have ma­jor con­cerns about the way in which driv­ers’ li­cences are be­ing handed out to those not wor­thy. Well hello, sun­shine. Does he re­ally think we have for­got­ten how many times his as­so­ci­a­tion cried out for sim­pler, eas­ier, quicker licensing cour­ses due to the need for more truck driv­ers?

Why didn’t they stand up and de­mand ma­jor changes to the learner driver sys­tem when that dodgy Lin­fox driver-trainer was found out? Why haven’t they sent peo­ple in to in­ves­ti­gate the rorts en­trenched into some of these train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions? The White Card, the MISC Card and the Blue Card fi­asco is no dif­fer­ent. Wher­ever there is money abound with Gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies, there are those that will make hay while they are left alone to pros­per.

We all know the names and the faces of those that cover up the rorts with speeches like “our driv­ers are the most highly trained”.

None of the as­so­ci­a­tions are ready to ad­mit how much they have failed their mem­bers. And the mem­bers are yet to put a price on what the as­so­ci­a­tions have cost them in lost earn­ing po­ten­tial if they had the fore­sight to run their busi­nesses with­out be­ing ma­jorly im­peded by the mis­guided rhetoric of such an in­bred bunch of hang­ers on.

The as­so­ci­a­tions are con­tin­u­ally bang­ing on about the grow­ing freight task, greater road con­ges­tion amid the sour­ing pop­u­la­tion growth, as well as our need to change and de­velop ways of do­ing the in­creased work­load. Why don’t they start high­light­ing the ob­vi­ous need for every truck owner to in­crease their rates in mea­sure of the task at hand with the ever-in­creas­ing need for what it is we do for this coun­try?

Every state has the same in­creas­ing need for truck move­ments, hence the easy bid for rate in­creases across the whole coun­try. That’s why peo­ple are fool­ish enough to con­tinue be­ing a part of these pa­thetic as­so­ci­a­tions be­cause they hang on to the fool­hardy be­lief that they will even­tu­ally do what they pre­tend to do – rep­re­sent the bulk of their mem­bers and not those on the first page of their char­ter, the ones com­monly re­ferred to as their “ma­jor spon­sors”.

That sim­ply stands out as a glar­ing bea­con of con­tempt for all those that are not in that elite group. The ques­tion is: When are all the truck­ing com­pany mem­bers go­ing to wake up and see how they are con­stantly be­ing played against the ma­jor spon­sors?


“There is no ev­i­dence of a link be­tween re­mu­ner­a­tion and safety.” How can any­one that runs trucks all over this coun­try bear wit­ness to such lies?

Eco­nom­ics 101 dic­tates that if you are not earn­ing more than you spend, you will go out back­wards. It’s the same when you have five trucks work­ing 250 hours per week, and the same as the bloke next door. But if you are be­ing paid 20 per cent less than he is for the same hours/work­load, sim­ple math will con­clude his trucks will be 20 per cent safer than yours if you are strug­gling to keep your name on the payslips.

How can an as­so­ci­a­tion boss get away with deny­ing what we have all known and lived through­out all our truck­ing lives? He says there is no ev­i­dence of a link, well how does he fig­ure so many truck­ing com­pa­nies have gone bust over the past 40 years? Not just those mis­man­aged, but those we all grew up see­ing long be­fore we joined the ranks of the un­der­paid.

Fletch­ers, Mills and Hunt come to mind, com­pa­nies that saw the light and got out while the go­ing was good. When BS-ing about re­mu­ner­a­tion, it can­not be de­nied that be­ing paid by the kilo­me­tre is dan­ger­ous over­all be­cause it en­cour­ages driv­ing be­yond phys­i­cal and men­tal en­durance. It di­rectly re­lates to in­come-earn­ing po­ten­tial, and the need to sat­isfy the owner of the truck to shore up fur­ther em­ploy­ment se­cu­rity.


There has been a blue moon in the sky over the Hume High­way re­cently when one such gen­tle­man of the high­way drove past ‘Pigs Me­mo­rial’ for the last time in a truck. Kerry ‘Ken­worth’ O’Con­nell has de­cided to call it a day/ night and re­tire. Never have I known some­one so well known since Chilla to have graced the high­ways with so much ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect of his peers (and such com­mand of a mi­cro­phone).

He will leave a huge hole in the in­dus­try but hope­fully he will now fi­nally get his shit to­gether and write that book that so many would love to read. Maybe Kerry, Bob Sealey and Brian Turpie should col­lab­o­rate. Ei­ther way, all the very best to you and the blonde KK. It’s been a plea­sure and an honour.

“Be­ing paid by the kilo­me­tre is dan­ger­ous over­all.”

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